According to Encylopaedia Brittanica all of the tribes of Israel except Benjamin, Judah and Levi have been "lost to history", assimilated into other peoples and no longer have a Jewish identity:

...Following the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 BC, the 10 tribes were gradually assimilated by other peoples and thus disappeared from history... - Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

However, when Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God he appears to claim that his only mission was to "seek and to save" these missing "sheep":

Luk 19:9  And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.  Luk 19:10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. 

Luk_15:4  What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Mat 15:21  Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  Mat 15:22  And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.  Mat 15:23  But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.  Mat 15:24  But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Was Jesus sent to locate and gather in the lost tribes?

I note that some consider the existence of the lost tribes a myth while others, mostly in more modern times consider their recovery part of the messianic hope:

...The mysterious disappearance of the Ten Tribes of Israel nurtured the belief according to which their location will eventually be discovered and they will return to the Land of Israel, as the ancestors of the modern Jews, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin did when the Babylonian empire was destroyed by the Persians. This belief had its roots in the interpretations of several biblical texts, especially I Chronicles (5:26) and various prophecies (Isaiah 11:11-12, among others) as well some references found in the Apocrypha (II Esdras 13:39-50).

The fate of the Ten Tribes was discussed by the sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Their opinions diverged between that expressed by Rabbi Akiba, who believed that the Ten Tribes would not return, and that of Rabbi Eliezer, who argued that the Ten Tribes would eventually return (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:3; for additional references see Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 147b, and Numbers Rabba 9:7). The supposed location of the Ten Lost Tribes became a subject of much speculation in itself. Gradually a legend was formed that claimed that the Ten Lost Tribes live in a region situated beyond the miraculous and impassable river of Sambatyon who flows for the six days of the week and stops on Shabbat, when the Ten Tribes are forbidden to travel. References to this theme may be found in Jewish classical texts (Genesis Rabba 73:6; Sanhedrin 10:6/29b). The legend is also mentioned by Josephus Flavius (Wars: 7:96-97) and the Greek author Pliny the Elder (Historia Naturalis 31:24). - The Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes

So did Jesus come to seek and save them? Was that plan thrwarted by the Jewish leadership not recognizing Jesus as the messiah?

I note the following NT passages in which the 12 tribes appear to exist in the "present" (the then present) and in the "future" (the then future, and possibly future to us):

Mat_19:28  And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luk_22:30  That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Act_26:7  Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

Jas_1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Rev_21:12  And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.

  • 2
    The 10 tribes weren't "lost". Acts 2 shows they traveled to Jerusalem 3 times a year for feast days. James 1:1 Says "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting". The 12 tribes were scattered but still known. The 2 sticks of Judah and Ephraim have already been made one through the cross fulfilling ezekiel 37. Yahuwshuwas mission was not to seek out literally lost people to recover their identity. He came to seek those who were lost spiritually like the prodigal son when the father said he was lost but now he's found.
    – diego b
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:25
  • @diegob So do you disagree with Brittanica?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 18:38
  • 1
    Britannica says "gradually assimilated" by other people. Which is true, but while Jerusalem and the temple were still there after babylonial captivity, they were able to travel to the temple and follow the law. They still had their identity at that time, as is made clear by the book of acts ch 2 and ch 8, and also the epistles of James and Peter. But after Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 ad, the tribes assimilated into the nation's at a much faster pace. And again, his mission was not to find literal lost people, as shown in the parable of the 1 lost sheep out of 99
    – diego b
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:07
  • 2
    I disagree with Brittanica - not that the 10 tribes aren’t scattered and completely assimilated into the nations but for there statement that Israel no longer has “Jewish identity”. A Jew is an Israelite but an Israelite is not a Jew, therefore Israel does not have Jewish identity but it’s the other way around. When dealing with this topic you have to communicate clearly with the correct terminology.
    – JLB
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 10:35
  • 1
    Josephus records: "the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated in numbers". In Jesus's time the location of Israel was known. Later they migrated elsewhere and became lost to history. There are many theories about what happened to them based on various clues not accepted by mainstream historians. Many Danes consider themselves the tribe of Dan, Scots traditionally don't eat pork or eels, "British" could be Hebrew for "covenant man", "Saxons" could be "Isaac's sons", Druid priests dress like Levitical priests, Ulster banner, etc. Commented Mar 31, 2019 at 13:35

5 Answers 5


This question is great and requires a thoughtful response. I would like to draw your attention to Paul's writings concerning this:

What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the vessels of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory— including us, whom He has called not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles? As He says in Hosea: “I will call them My people who are not My people, and I will call her My beloved who is not My beloved,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Romans 9:23-26 BSB

This is quote from Hosea concerning the 'lost tribes of Israel', so to speak:

Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel. -Hosea 1:9-11 KJV

The parallel seems to suggest that lost Israel became the Gentiles, and that in Jesus they are being made one with the Jews, their lost brethren.

We know that The House of Israel was scattered amongst all nations, not just the places listed near Assyria:

And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. - Deut. 28:64

We also know the gospel will be preached to all nations, then the end will come (Matt. 24:14). So, the idea that that Ephraim and Judah have been made one stick (Ez. 37:15-19 ISR) is not yet fulfilled yet:

15 And the word of יהוה came to me, saying,

16 “And you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it, ‘For Yehuḏah and for the children of Yisra’ĕl, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Yosĕph, the stick of Ephrayim, and for all the house of Yisra’ĕl, his companions.’

17 “Then bring them together for yourself into one stick, and they shall become one in your hand.

18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Won’t you show us what you mean by these?’

19 say to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “See, I am taking the stick of Yosĕph, which is in the hand of Ephrayim, and the tribes of Yisra’ĕl, his companions. And I shall give them unto him, with the stick of Yehuḏah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.” ’

Once all nations have heard the true gospel, then the end will come and Ephraim will come home to be with his brother Judah in the land of Israel physically, as Ez. 37:20-22 (ISR) goes on to tell us:

20 “And the sticks on which you write shall be in your hand before their eyes.

21 “And speak to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “See, I am taking the children of Yisra’ĕl from among the gentiles, wherever they have gone, and shall gather them from all around, and I shall bring them into their land.

22 “And I shall make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Yisra’ĕl. And one sovereign shall be sovereign over them all, and let them no longer be two nations, and let them no longer be divided into two reigns.

Until that time, many Israelites still think they are Gentiles, and according to my interpretation of this, don't understand what being grafted back in is, nor what having one Law is, either. However, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to put it on the Gentiles hearts to return to their Hebrew roots and be grafted back into the family tree.

  • 1
    @Ruminator - sure. Ez. 37:15-22. Added this into my answer.
    – Jacob
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 20:10
  • I understand. With replacement theology on the one hand and hyper-dispensationalism on the other hand, things can get confusing. I feel the olive tree symbology used by Paul is sound. It allows for different branches in the family tree of Israel which branches into the whole world and everywhere offers the Gentiles a chance to be grafted in by connecting with these 12 tribes, which were known to exist in the 1st C.: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting" (Jas 1:1). Historically, these tribes not lost as we think?
    – Jacob
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 0:53
  • 1
    I agree. I must say many Christians i've encountered have looked down on the notion that the lost tribes may be locatable. They wrote in off as somehow related to the Anglo-Israelite stuff or even associated with Identity Christianity or replacement theology. But if we take 'all nations' literally than we shouldn't really have to look far for these assimilated descendants worldwide (not just in Europe). The Gentiles don't become them. They merge into all the Gentiles. And then the believing Gentiles and lost Israelites with them return to Judah and all 12 are made one in the Land.
    – Jacob
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:26
  • 1
    "You have prepared a table FOR ME in the midst of my enemies..." (Psalm 23). Because N. Israel has been assimilated into these Gentiles, they are both, Israelite and Gentile, nourished by the gospel going into all the nations. In fact, it is for Israel first, and also the Greek, etc. So lost Israel will not go hungry if Jesus speaks the truth that his gospel WILL go to all nations, and then the end of the age, etc.
    – Jacob
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:54
  • 1
    I agree. The meaning of Jezreel may help you. It means, "El will sow [the seed]."
    – Jacob
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 11:21

I read the reminders here to answer the question, but there are at least two questions, the one in the title and the one in the opening post. Sticking with the question in the post, there are two parts: "Locate", and "gather" the "lost tribes" of Israel. Location, or if I could introduce a term to the discussion here, "sacred geography", I think figures strongly into Jesus's very deliberate actions, and there is a reason[s] for His focus on the northern geography. As asked, I don't think there is a crisp answer to the Locate question, so by default the answer is no. That His core message was to be carried to the uttermost parts of the world is clear, and therefore, includes any/all "lost tribes". I do think it is useful to include in the thinking the question raised in part by Who are "the Jews" in John's gospel? but I would include NT passages outside of John's gospel in that scope. So many terms need to be defined here: the term "Jew" didn't exist in Jesus's day. There is a southern/Judean 'intelligentsia' presumably made up of descendants of Judah, Benjamin, and Levites [though Asher is called out in one of the birth narratives]. Benjamin Freedman and many others prior to his 20th century ideas make a case that the leaders of the Judean sect were not of the same faith as those of First Temple lineage, and actually were antithetical to the "First Temple Faith" if we could call it that. When Jesus referred to them [the leadership sitting themselves in the Seat of Moses] as Vipers, Snakes, and sons of Satan, and a Synagogue of Satan, He may have been speaking quite plainly. What amalgam was hatched during the captivity in Babylon? As to the terminology, many scholarly papers are available that discuss the etymology of the English word "Jew", but this summary in the secular periodical Haaretz is hard to beat for clarity and brevity in overviewing the topic: Why Are Jews Called Jews?

I say all that to say that part of what Jesus was doing is making sure that ALL the descendants of Jacob are INcluded in His Messianic ministry; the "casting of the net", and no one of His generation should be able to say "we were not warned - we did not know". In the same way that He uplifted and honored the poor, the sick/lame/blind/outcast, elevated women, and included sinners [shunned by the Temple cult elite], He focused diligently on the Northern Geography, and sent his witnesses/messengers [the Twelve and the 70/77] to the villages of Galilee, not Judea. There was no broad witness program like that in Judea; only the "rallies" - mass events following up on John's work. Jesus traversed routes that stepped over into northern Gentile Territory: Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea Phillipi & probably Panias itself (City of Pagans). Provocative and brilliant Michael Heiser speculates that Jesus's exchange with Peter over His own identity and the role of His Church may have occurred at that site, the "Gates of Hell" as it were. MOST of Jesus's signs/wonders/miracles were deliberately carried out in the Northern territories, and Jesus deliberately included Samaria in His Message and circuit, though He interestingly forbade The Twelve from including Samaritan villages in their evangelistic campaign.

So, Yes, Jesus sought to unify all Twelve of the Twelve tribes, and His actions demonstrate that representative samples of all Twelve fell under the sound of His voice, and the ministry of the Twelve before and after His Resurrection. All 12 Tribes, not Just the "lost" by this time [our day] have thoroughly intermingled with "Gentiles" all through the world - just look at the racial/ethnic/national-heritage makeup of present day geopolitical Israel. The "seed of Abraham", via intermingling with all nations, is truly way to numerous to count, but with modern tools maybe not impossible to identify.

Exploring the Legend of the Ten Lost Tribes

Where are the Ten Lost Tribes?

Can Genetics Solve the Mystery of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel?

  • "Provocative and brilliant Michael Heiser" - agreed! He's one of a kind and always illuminating.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:54
  • "...Jesus deliberately included Samaria in His Message and circuit, though He interestingly forbade The Twelve from including Samaritan villages in their evangelistic campaign..." That highlights that he was fulfilling the promises made specifically to the lost sheep (in the spiritual sense, per Gina) and the lost sheep (in the sense of having lost their identity as Jews) of the northern kingdom, specifically. Jesus came to fulfill all the promises and they are very specific promises.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:16

The word "lost" in Luke 19:10, as well as Matt. 15:24, and Matt. 10:6 is Strong's Gr. 622, "ἀπόλλυμι" or "apollumi" and means to destroy, to destroy utterly. The full definition is "(a) I kill, destroy, (b) I lose, mid: I am perishing (the resultant death being viewed as certain)." Source: Biblehub

Thayer's Lexicon has it as -

"the Jews, neglected by their religious teachers, left to themselves and thereby in danger of losing eternal salvation, wandering about as it were without guidance, are called τά πρόβατα τά ἀπολωλότα τοῦ οἴκου Ἰσραήλ: Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24 (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:25); and Christ, reclaiming them from wickedness, is likened to a shepherd and is said ζητεῖν καί σῴζειν τό ἀπολωλός:" Source: Biblehub

The question presumes a false meaning for "apollium" as if God did not know where the tribes of Israel were located. That would presume that God is not omniscient which is a wholly unscriptural approach.

The word "lost" was not that they were concealed among the nations, but that they were perishing, in danger of losing their souls, in danger of being permanently separated from God. Lost = separation from God = spiritual death.

Christ instructed the disciples how to go on their missions preaching the gospel in Matt. ch. 10. The instruction to go only to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" could not have been carried out if the disciples did not know where they were living.

They knew where to find them, as many of them had been making the pilgrim trips to Jerusalem for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot for many years. Those communities had been sending the tithes to the council - the Sanhedrin - for years, so there were records of the location of the communities of the "Jews" in the nations.

Peter's first letter opens with the location names of the "strangers [sojourners]... of the diaspora."

"...to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," (1 Pet. 1:1, KJV)

"...to the choice sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," (1 Pet. 1:1, YLT)

The word translated as sojourner or stranger is Strong's Gr. 3927, "παρεπίδημος" or "parepidémos" and means living in, sojourning in a strange place, residing in a strange country.

In other words, they were the tribes who were living in a foreign country strange to the land of Israel / Judea.

Christ knew where they were. God knew where they were. The disciples and apostles knew where they were.

Excerpt from Ellicott's commentary on 1 Pet. 1:1,

"In John 7:35 we have “the dispersion of the Greeks,” where it clearly means “those of the dispersed Jews who live among the Greeks,” so here “the dispersion of Pontus,” or “the Pontine dispersion,” will mean “those of, the dispersed Jews who live in Pontus.” In James 1:1 the same word is used, and, in fact, it seems to have been the recognised name for all Jews who did not live in Palestine. The word rendered by “sojourners” means people who are resident for a time among strangers: it might, for instance, describe English people who have taken houses in Paris without becoming naturalised; and, as it is here in so close a connection with geographical words, it seems forced to interpret it metaphorically (as in 1Peter 2:11). Palestine, not Heaven, is the home tacitly contrasted; Pontus, not earth, is the place of sojourn. This, then, is clear, that the Apostle of the Circumcision is writing to those of the Circumcision. " Source: Biblehub

The word Christ used for "lost" was descriptive of their state of salvation, of having lost their way, and fallen away from the truth. Christ was sent to bring them back into the fold, just a shepherd would gather those that had wandered away.

It did not mean that He did not know where they were. He sent His disciples to go bring them back into the knowledge of God's word.

Expositor's Greek Testament on Matt. 10:6,

"Matthew 10:6. ἀπολωλότα, “the lost sheep,” an expression consecrated by prophetic use (Jeremiah 50:6, Swete’s ed., Matthew 27:6), the epithet here first introduced, often occurring in Gospels, was used by Jesus not in blame but in pity. “Lost” in His vocabulary meant “neglected” (Matthew 9:36), in danger also of course, but not finally and hopelessly given over to perdition, salvable if much needing salvation. " Source: biblehub

Luke ch. 19 relays the occasion when Jesus saw Zaccheus, and told him to come down. The people murmured that Jesus was going to have an evening meal with a rich publican, a sinner. Sinner - one who misses the mark - a debtor in need of forgiveness of sins - lost without Christ's forgiveness.

The myth of the "lost tribes of Israel" is built upon the shifting sands of misapplication and misunderstanding.

  • Lots of great stuff, as usual Gina. In my own mind I think I may have been confusing the "lost tribes" with the "lost sheep". I mean, the "lost tribes" are really lost, to history, but that is a distinct classification from the "lost sheep" in the gospels. Jesus recovered "lost sheep" but not the "lost tribes", yes?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 0:06
  • Which verse says "lost tribes" ?
    – Gina
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 0:08
  • That is an extra-biblical term but deals with a reality. I was getting them confused in my own mind.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 0:09
  • Please see the citations in the original question.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 1:33
  • Agree that “ lost tribes” is built on poor foundation. Perhaps the brood of Judean vipers wanted the northern tribes & “the Samaritans” to get lost and stay lost. Disagree with the artificial distinction, really dualistic, “spiritual” vs carnal/genealogical. One must dismiss a huge chunk of Pauline theology to hold that view.
    – Richard7
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 13:49

Was Jesus sent to locate and gather in the lost tribes?
And did he gather them?
Is he gathering them still?

As pointed out in the question, the tribes are identified as the "lost sheep of the house of Israel".

John 10:16 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 fold, and one shepherd.

John 10:27a My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me...

How did Christ gather the sheep as the one Shepherd?

Christ said in Mat 26:28

For this is my blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Who are the many of the New Covenant?

Yahweh vowed that He would have a relationship with the Israelites forever, even by the New Covenant was prophesied to be with both houses of Israel:

Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…. Thus saith Yahweh, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar…. If those ordinances depart from before me, saith Yahweh, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith Yahweh; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done…. - Jeremiah 31:31-37

The new covenant is made with literal Israel and Judah, not with the spiritual Israel, i.e., believers, except secondarily, and as grafted on the stock of Israel (Rom 11:16-27). For the whole subject of Jer 30 and 31 is the restoration of the Hebrews (Jer 30:4, 7, 10, 18; 31:7, 10-11, 23-24, 27, 36).92

Yahweh is always true to His Word. Just as He promised, He has made the New Covenant with Israelites.

Could it be as simple as taking a globe and drawing circles around the land masses in which Christianity has flourished for the last two millennia? Your circles will encompass nations primarily composed of European kindred peoples.


I'm so greatly fulfilled to be eating and drinking from Jesus table and meeting the apostles after finding the narrow door. You close your eyes for three seconds during the daytime, and its days you spend over there, feels like home! Especially when Jesus says he has been waiting for you. And then Father Yahweh explicit searching and smiling down at you with words like, "This is like the first day I saw you!"

Joel 3:6-8 6 You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their

7 “See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done.

8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.” The Lord has spoken.

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