In James 1:1

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

Does this passage support the idea the twelve tribes of Israel continued to exist after dispersion by Assyria in 721 BC?

  • One can wonder what prophetical significance, if any, the 2 1/2 tribes’ Reuben, Gad and Manasseh’s abode on the other side of the river had. Well, the people in Japan has a known connection with ancient Israel. And the name “Japan” resembles the name “Reuben” in Mandarin. Moreover, the genomes of Australian aborigines has been traced to people in India; corresponding to a tribe being split into two, with one half residing on the other side of water. (Luke 3:8). So here are two possible matches. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 1:03

2 Answers 2


There are very few (more actually, scant) evidence that small fragments of the northern 10 tribes continued after the captivity of Samaria in the 8th century BC.

  • Luke 2:36 - There was also a prophetess named Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, who was well along in years. She had been married for seven years

There is also evidence that the people loyal to the LORD deserted the northern kingdom when the split under Rehoboam and Jeroboam occurred after the death of Solomon as per the record below:

1 Chron 11: 13 Moreover, the priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel stood with Rehoboam. 14 For the Levites left their pasturelands and their possessions and went to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD. 15 And Jeroboam appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat demons and calf idols he had made.

16 Those from every tribe of Israel who had set their hearts to seek the LORD their God followed the Levites to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 17 So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon for three years, because they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.

I am sure this was not the only time this occurred. Therefore, it appears that small faithful remnant of some of the northern tribes lived in Judah, enough to maintain their identity as per the record of Luke above.

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    In Acts 26:6–7 Paul references them too Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 12:14

Yes, the 12 tribes of Israel always regathered and are not lost. James 1:1, Acts 26:7-8, Matt 19:28. See commentaries like Bengel's Gnomen. δώδεκα φυλαῖς, to the twelve tribes) of Israel.—διασπορᾷ, in their dispersion/diaspora) 1 Peter 1:1; Acts 8:1.

(ESV) Deuteronomy 28:25 “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.

Deuteronomy 30:4. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.

From an article The Ten Lost Tribes Mystery of the Myth by Chuck Missler:

The "tribe of Judah" (2 Kings 17:18, et al.) is used idiomatically for the Southern Kingdom.11 When encountering the tribal designations, it is important to distinguish between the territories allocated to the tribes and the people themselves.

The Northern Kingdom Falls

In 724 b.c. Shalmaneser V besieged Samaria for three years. King Hoshea of Israel attempted to revolt against paying Assyrians annual tribute money--a treaty with Pharaoh of Egypt did not help 12--and Samaria, Jeroboam's capital, fell in 722 b.c. with Sargon II seizing power in 721 b.c.

The Assyrians implemented their infamous policy of mixing conquered peoples to keep them from organizing a revolt. Israelite captives were mixed with Persians and others, and strangers from far-off lands were resettled in Samaria. The resulting mixed, quasi-Jewish populations became the "Samaritans."13 (You can read about this "fall" in 2 Kings 17.)

Not all from the Northern Kingdom were deported. Archaeologists have uncovered annals of the Assyrian Sargon, in which he tells that he carried away only 27,290 people and 50 chariots.14

Population estimates of the Northern Kingdom at that time range from 400,000 to 500,000; less than 1/20th were deported-- mostly the leadership from the capital, Samaria. The rest of the Northern Kingdom were taken by Assyria as slaves, which were a valuable commodity. (It is difficult to view the Assyrians as careless enough to let their captives wander off to Europe.)

When the Babylonians take over Assyria, the descendants of the "ten tribes" were probably again commingled with the captives of Judah.

The Babylonians Take Over

When the Northern Kingdom went into captivity (722 b.c.), all 12 tribes were also represented in the south. When the Babylonians took the Southern Kingdom into captivity (586 b.c.), members of all 12 tribes of Israel were involved. Isaiah, prophesying to Judah, refers to them as the "House of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel..." (Isaiah 48:1; cf. vv. 12-14).

Post-Captivity Terminology

After the Babylonian captivity, the terms "Jew" and "Israelite" are used interchangeably. Ezra calls the returning remnant "Jews" 8 times and "Israel" 40 times. (Ezra also speaks of "all Israel": Ezra 2:70; 3:11; 8:35; 10:25, et al.) Nehemiah uses the term "Jew" 11 times and "Israel" 22 times. Nehemiah too speaks of "all Israel" being back in the land (Nehemiah 12:47). The remnant who returned from Babylon is represented as "the nation" (Malachi 1:1, et al.).

The same is true in the New Testament. Our Lord is said to have offered Himself to the nation, "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24). Tribes other than Judah are mentioned specifically in the New Testament as being represented in the land.15

Anna knew her tribal identity was of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36). Paul knew he was of the tribe of Benjamin, a "Jew" and an "Israelite" (Romans 11:1). The New Testament speaks of "Israel" 75 times and uses the word "Jew" 174 times.16

At the Feast of Pentecost Peter cries, "Ye men of Judea" (Acts 2:14), "ye men of Israel..." (Acts 2:22), and "All the house of Israel" (Acts 2:36).

Regathered as One

Ezekiel 36 and 37, the Dry Bones Vision, declares that Judah (Jews) and Israel (10 tribes) shall be joined as one in the regathering.17 This is true today. (The total physical descendants were not the people to whom the promises were made [Romans 9:4-7].)

Footnotes from the article

11. Cf. 1 Kings 11:13, 32.
12. 2 Kings 18:2.
13. John 4:20-22.
14. Biblical Archaeology, VI, 1943, page 58.
15. Matthew 4:13, 15; Luke 2:36; Acts 4:36; Philipians 3:5; "the twelve tribes," Acts 26:7; James 1:1.
16. Acts 21:39; 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 4 11:22; Philipians 3:5, etc.
17. Ezekiel 37:16-17, 21-22.

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