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The Lost Tribes and the Two Houses of Israel: A True Jewish View

The Lost Tribes and the Two Houses of Israel
A True Jewish View

James Scott Trimm

There have been many attempts by mainline Messianic Judaism to discredit what has come to be called "Two House Theology". Yet the mainline Messianic position on this issue is not in keeping with Judaism.

Sometimes I have been asked "what is the difference between Nazarene Judaism and Messianic Judaism?" My reply is "Judaism". The difference between the ways Nazarene Judaism and mainline Messianic Judaism have reacted to the "Two House" movement provides us with a perfect example. The mainline Messianic Jewish attitude towards the Two House movement is totally at odds with JUDAISM.

The Mishnah recounts to us the age old question, as to whether or not the Lost Ten Tribes will yet return.

The ten tribes are not destined to return,
since it is said, "And he cast them into another land,
as on this day" (Deut. 29:28).
Just as the day passes and does not return,
so they have gone their way and will not return,"
the words of Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Eliezer says,
"Just as this day is dark and then grows light,
so the ten tribes for whom it is now dark--
thus in the future it is destined to grow light for them."
(m.San. 10:3)

The Gemara to this passage of Mishnah says:

Our Rabbis taught: The ten tribes have no portion in the world to come, as it says, And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation: And the Lord rooted them out of their land, refers to this world; and cast them into another land — to the world to come: this is R. Akiba's view. R. Simeon b. Judah, of the Kefar of Acco, said on R. Simeon's authority: If their deeds are as this day's, they will not return; otherwise they shall. Rabbi said: They will enter the future world, as it is said, [And it shall come to pass] in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, [and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem]. (Is. 27:13)
(b.San. 110b)

It must be understood here that the "World to Come" here refers to the Messianic Kingdom. There was a conflict between Akiva and Eliezer as to whether the Lost Ten Tribes would return. In the Gemara we see that Rabbi Y'hudah, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin ruled in favor of Rabbi Eliezer's view, that the Ten Tribes would in fact return and have a part in the World to Come. (Whenever the Talmud refers to "Rabbi" without a name, it is a reference to Rabbi Y'hudah the Nasi) Rabbi Y'hudah (Rabbi Judah) also indicated that the Lost Ten Tribes had lost their identity and become mingled among the nations, only to have their identity revealed in the future:

Rab Judah said in the name of R. Assi: If at the present time a heathen betroths [a daughter in Israel], note must be
taken of such betrothal since it may be that he is of the ten tribes.
(b.Yev. 16b)

The Midrash Rabba speaks of the future reunion of the two houses of Israel saying:

AND HE SAID: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER (HE'ASEFU)... ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, AND HEAR (XLIX, 1 f.). GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from the land of Egypt, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES into Raameses; GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from [the exile of] the ten tribes, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. He thus commanded them to show honour to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.1 R. Aha interpreted [the word HE'ASEFU], ‘Purify yourselves,’ as in the verse, And they gathered themselves together... and they purified themselves (Neh. XII, 28 ff.).2 The Rabbis say: He warned them against dissension, bidding them, Be ye all one assembly. Thus it says, And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions (Ezek. XXXVII, 16). ' His companion ' is written: when the children of Israel unite in one band, then they may prepare themselves for redemption. For what follows this? And I will make them one nation in the land, etc. (ib. 22).
(Gen. Rabbah XCVIII:2)

The Midrash Rabbah here is making a drash on the two phrases GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, applying this as a type of their future reunion and redemption (as seen in Ezekiel 37)

The Midrash Rabbah also teaches that the Gentile nations will be blessed by the last days restoration of the Ten Tribes by virtue of their having been scattered among them:

They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt--this refers to the generation of the wilderness--and as a dove out of
the land of Assyria (Hos. XI, 11)--this refers to the ten tribes; and of both of them it says’ And I will make them to
dwell in their houses, saith the Lord (ib.). Rabbi says: When a certain kind of dove is given food, the other doves smell it and flock to her cote. So when the elder sits and discourses, many strangers become proselytes at such a time; so, for instance, Jethro heard the news and came, Rahab heard and came. So through Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, many strangers became proselytes at that time. What is the reason? Because, when he seeth his children sanctify My name, then, as it goes on, they also that err in spirit shall come to understanding (Isa. XXIX, 23, 24).
(Song of Songs Rabbah IV:2)

Finally the Midrash Rabbah tells us something about what became of the Lost Ten Tribes:

6. AND SHE CALLED HIS NAME JOSEPH, SAYING: THE LORD ADD TO ME ANOTHER SON (XXX, 24). ANOTHER [i.e. different] in respect of exile. R. Judah b. R. Simon said: The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were not exiled to the same place as were the other ten tribes. The ten-tribes were exiled beyond the River Sambatyon, whereas the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are dispersed in all countries. ANOTHER SON-in respect of dissension. R. Phinehas said: Through Rachel's prayer the tribes of Judah and Benjamin did not revolt [against the Davidic dynasty] together with the remaining ten tribes. ANOTHER denotes the behavior of others.
(Gen. Rabbah LXXIII:6)

The identity of this river has remained a mystery. The primary clue to the identity of the mysterious Sabatyon river is
also found in Midrash Rabbah which quotes Rabbi Akiba as saying:

...the river Sabatyon carries stones the whole
week but allows them to rest on the Sabbath.
(Genesis Rabbah 11:5)

Similarly the Talmud says:

Let the river Sabatyon prove that the
Seventh day is the Sabbath.
(b.Sanh. 65b)

Back in 1987 there was an article published in the Orthodox Jewish (Chabad) Journal B'Or HaTorah titled "Did any of the Lost Tribes Go North?" by Yochanon Ben David (John Hulley) (B'Or Ha'Torah 6 (1987): 127-133). The object of this paper was to identify the Sabbatayon and thus determine the location of the Ten Lost Tribes. This article concluded that the Sabbatyon was in fact the Bosphorus straits between the Mediterranean Sea and the the Black Sea. Hulley showed that the Straites were anciently referred to as a river and that due to current fluctuations between the two Seas, the Bosphorus slows down, stops or changes direction approximately once every seven days. He concludes that the legend might further be based upon a Sabbath day crossing of the Sabbatyon coinciding with the current being at rest. This would mean that the Ten Tribes had migrated across the straites toward Europe.

The prophet Ovadyah (Obadiah) speaks of the destination of the House of Israel in their exile as follows:

And the captivity of this host of the children of Yisrael,
that are among the Kena’anites, even unto Tzarfat, and
the captivity of Yerushalayim, that is in Sepharad, shall
possess the cities of the South.
(Ovadyah 1:20)

Where is Tzarfat? Tzarfat is the Hebrew word for “France”. In fact, if you were reading a newspaper in Israel today, and it referred to France, the word used would be “Tzarfat”.

In fact Rashi’s commentary to Ob. 1:20 says: "Tzarfat is the kingdom of France.”

Gauls had migrated from an area just north of the Assyrian Empire across Europe to the area we know today as France. The land we know today as France was Gaul. In fact the "DeGaulle" in Charles DeGaulle (the French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II) means "of Gaul". These Gauls were also known as Celts... they migrated across the English channel into the Brittish isles... thus the Celts spoke "Gealic". These "Gauls" were GAL-aeens who had been exiled by the Assyrians to the land north of Assyria, As they passed through the area known now as Turkey they created a colony there called GAL-atia.

In 1944 Zionist activist David Horowitz organized the United Israel World Union. The hallmark of this Jewish organization was Isaiah's word “My house will become a house of prayer for all peoples,” and “Whosoever will call upon the name of YHWH will be saved.” Horowitz maintained that the Lost Tribes of Israel had scattered among the nations and having lost their identity, would be a key componant and catalyst of masses of “Gentiles” who he believed would be drawn to Judaism, and join the Jewish people bringing about a Messianic age. Horowitz continued to lead the organization and proclaim this message of the future reunion of the two houses of Israel until his death at the age of 99 years in 2002. I know, I spoke with him on a number of occasions, he was a friend of mine.

Orthodox Israeli Yair Davidy is another Jew to proclaim the message of the Two Houses of Israel and the Ten Lost Tribes. Davidy lives in Israel where he runs the organization Brit-Am Israel. He has written several books on the topic of the Lost Tribes and their migrations into Western Europe. Many of these books have a letter in the front, giving them Rabbinic Aprobation from Rabbi Avram Feld. Among Yair's books are The Tribes: The Israelite Origin of the Western Peoples (1993); Ephraim and Lost Israelite Identity. Yair Davidy's thoroughly documented research shows that the Lost Ten Tribes, which had been transplanted to the outskirts of Assyria came to be known as the Sakeans (they were previously known as Yitzakheans or in Aramaic Isakeans). These Sakeans are known to have migrated northwest and made their way into Europe to become the Scythians (S'kitheans) and Saxons (Saksons). Davidy's research has shown that other tribal groups of the Lost Ten Tribes also emerged in Europe under names similar to those of the Tribe of Israel, such as: Galics (Galileans); Danes (Dans); Cimereans (Simeons); Goths/Gots (Gads "Gad" is pronounced in Hebrew as "God").

Not only is the Two House message the traditional position of Rabbinic Judaism, it is also the historic position of the Nazarenes, the original Jewish followers of Yeshua.

Let me begin by examining the Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah 8:14 as cited by Jerome:

The Nazarenes, who accept Messiah in such a way
that they do not cease to observe the old law
explain the two houses as the two families, viz.
of Shammai and Hillel, from whom originated the Scribes
and the Pharisees. Akiba, who took over their school,
is called the master of Aquila the proselyte, and
after him came Meir who has been succeeded by Joannes
the son of Zakkai and after him Eliezer and further
Telphon, and next Joseph Galilaeus and Joshua up to
the capture of Jerusalem. Shammai then and Hillel
were born not long before the Lord; they originated
in Judea. The name of the first means "scatterer"
and of the second "unholy", because he scattered and
defiled the precepts of the Torah by his traditions
and deutroseis. And these are the two houses who did
not accept the Savior who has become to them ruin and

Now I want to clarify two things here. First of all the Nazarene commentary here is not giving the Pashat (literal meaning) of the passage but a MIDRASH (an allagoical meaning) for the passage. This Midrash draws an allagorical relationship between the two houses of Israel (the House of Israel and the House of Judah) and the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. The basis for this Midrash is a wordplay on the names Shammai and Hillel which sound in Hebrew like the words for "scatterer" and "unholy". "Scatterer" ties the House of Shammai allegorically to the "scattered" House of Israel. "Unholy" ties the House of Hillel to the House of Judah.

Two things are important to note:

1. The Midrash is not identifying an allegory to the two houses
themselves, but to the STUMBLING (see Is. 8:14) of the two houses.

2. The Midrash is not attacking Hillel and Shammai themselves but the
Houses or schools of Rabbinic thought that arose after them in their names
(as is clear from the linage of Rabbis that came after them), The purpose
of this portion of the Midrash is to link Rabbinic Judaism to the
"stumbling" of the House of Judah discussed in this section of Isaiah.

This section of the commentary is purely midrashic (allegorical) and tells us little about the Nazarene understanding of the Pashat (literal meaning) of this passage.

But now lets look at the Nazarene commentary on Is. 9:1-4 (8:23-93 in Jewish versions) as cited by Jerome:

The Nazarenes, whose opinion I have set forth above,
try to explain this passage in the following way:
When Messiah came and his proclaiming shone out,
the land of Zebulon and Naphtali first of all were
freed from the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees
and he shook off their shoulders the very heavy yoke
of the Jewish traditions. Later, however, the proclaiming
became more dominant, that means the proclaiming was
multiplied, through the Goodnews of the emissary Paul
who was the least of all the emissaries. And the goodnews
of Messiah shone to the most distant tribes and the way of
the whole sea. Finally the whole world, which earlier walked
or sat in darkness and was imprisoned in the bonds of idolatry
and death, has seen the clear light of the goodnews.

(Note: The "Jewish traditions" in the context of this commentary refer to Rabbinic Halachah of the fourth century CE with which the Nazarenes took issue.)

Now Isaiah 9:1-4 refers to "Galilee of the GOYIM (nations/Gentiles)" but identifies these "Gentiles" as the inhabitants of "the land of Zebulon and Naphtali". Here the House of Israel is being identified as "Gentiles". There are at least two other places in Scripture where the word "Gentile" is used to describe Ephraim (the House of Israel). One of these is Gen. 48:19 where (in the Hebrew) Ephraim is told his descendent's will become "a multitude of nations (GOYIM; Gentiles)" (compare Rom. 11:25 where the same phrase is translated in the KJV as "fullness of the gentiles"). The other case is in Rom. 9:24 which refers to "Jews" and "Gentiles" but then goes on (in Rom. 9:25-26) to quote Hosea (Hos. 2:23; 1:10) to identify them which the "Children of Judah" and "the Children of Israel" (Hosea 1:10-11; 2:23).

The Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah understands "you have multiplied the nation" (Is. 9:3) to refer to Paul "the proclaiming was multiplied, through the Goodnews of the emissary Paul... to the most distant tribes". Therefore the ancient Nazarenes understood the "Gentiles" to whom Paul primarily directed his message with the Ephraimite "Gentiles" of Isaiah 9:1-4 and with "the most distant tribes".

This comment in the Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah makes it clear that the Ancient Sect of Nazarene Judaism held to the Two House message and believed that Paul was an emissary to the Ephraimites. The "Two House" message is a JEWISH message with deep roots in Judaism. The Two House message has always been taught in Rabbinic Judaism and it is the historic position of Nazarene Judaism. Messianic Judaism has once again exchanged Judaism for traditional Christianity.

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Comment by GARY ATKINSON on June 24, 2018 at 10:41pm

Th 10 Tribes became Lo Ami [no longer a people period] The body of messiah has been grafted into the tribe of Judah but we see all the tribes in book of Revelation. The day will come when he will separate us out of the tribe Judah into the Tribes at his good pleasure as Jacob separated Laban's sheep. Don't need Talmud period on this one. 

Comment by Jake Wilson on June 25, 2018 at 10:06am

Hi James,

Thank you very much for this article.

I have read Yair Davidy’s The Tribes, and there’s no doubt that many of the Ephraimites migrated to Europe. Neither is there any doubt that we should preach the Gospel to them as to anyone else. However, there are certain conclusions which don’t hold up to scrutiny in my opinion. Some points to consider:

  1. The term Lost Tribes is not in the Scriptures. Thus, to claim that the term Lost Sheep of Israel doesn’t refer to being spiritually lost (unsaved), but exclusively to the Lost Ten Tribes whose location is supposedly unknown, - this claim is not well founded.Also, where does the Bible tie the "Lost Sheep" exclusively to Ephraimites? David was from the tribe of Judah and considered himself a lost sheep (PSA 119:176). LUKE 15:4-7 clearly defines a lost sheep = a sinner.
  2. GOYIM doesn’t always refer to Gentiles, but can also mean a PEOPLE. It is used for Shem’s descendants (GEN 10:31), for Abraham’s descendants (GEN 17:4-5), and in reference to the nations in Rebekah's womb - one of which was Israel. Thus, the equation GOYIM = GENTILES is false and misleading.
  3. JOS 17:17 shows that Joseph [“increase”], i.e., Ephraim & Manasseh received a double-portion, and DEUT 33:17 mentions the ten thousands of Ephraim... and the thousands of Manasseh - quite clearly referring to the tribal allotment (10 tribes collectively called Ephraim, with Manasseh being the biggest tribe). Thus, Ephraim’s descendants were many PEOPLE. Again, to say that the context of GEN 48:19 shows the word GOYIM to mean GENTILES is quite a stretch.
  4. The pardon of the apostate Northern Kingdom was a TYPE, and the salvation of the Gentiles is the ANTITYPE. Paul didn’t mean that the Gentiles saved at his time were all Ephraimites, but he simply used Hosea's prophecy to explain what was happening all around: Gentiles got saved left, right, and centre –people who weren’t descendants of Israel. Or were the Gentiles in ACTS 10, amongst them Cornelius, all from Ephraim? (DAN 9:27 said He would confirm the Restored Covenant for one week (27-34 AD) with many, i.e., with the Jews, and then from 34 AD onwards the Gentiles would be preached to).
  5. The claim that the Ten Tribes were lost and have never returned is based on the erroneous view that the Two Houses have remained completely separate throughout history. Here are some arguments which refute this (there are many more):

  1. Simeon was located south of Judah and thus could not have been involved in the first Assyrian invasion (JOS 19:1, 1 CHR 4:24-43).
  2. Ephraimites relocated to Judah before Assyrian invasion (2 CHR 11:16, 15:9).
  3. Also Judahites were taken captive by Assyria (as per Sennacherib's annals 200150 captives from 46 cities; 2 KIN 18:13, ISA 36:1).
  4. Ephraimites kept Pesach in Judah after Assyrian invasion (2 CHR 30:6,11,18).
  5. Ephraimites lived in Judah after Assyrian invasion (2 CHR 31:6, 30:25).
  6. Also Ephraimites were deported to Babylon: Of all Israel... who were carried away to Babylon... the children of Ephraim and Manasseh (1 CHR 9:1-3).
  7. By the time of the Judahite exile, Babylon had swallowed up Assyria. Cyrus asked Who is there among you of ALL his people? (EZRA 1:3) He was addressing a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces, i.e., the 127 provinces of Medo-Persia (EST 1:1). The collective term Jews in the Book of Esther is used for all foreigners, which included Ephraimites. Though many had remained in Media, Mesopotamia, and Asia, the Brit Chadashah shows that all the house of Israel was present in Yeshua's day (ACTS 2:36, 4:10, 13:24). Among the Jews were also Medes, which may well have been descendants of those Ephraimites carried away into Assyria, who were placed in the cities of the Medes (2 KIN 18:11).
  8. 4,600 were deported to Babylon (JER 52:30), and 42,360 returned (EZRA 2:64) – how is this possible unless we add some Ephraimites?
  9. Among the returnees from Babylon we find Ephraimites (those staying back = 12 tribes of the dispersion, JAM 1:1). A few examples:
    • Asher:            The children of Arah, 775 (1 CHR 7:39, EZRA 2:5).
    • Gad:               The children of Bani, 642 (2. SAM 23:36, EZRA 2:10).

    • Naphtali:        The children of Ramah & Gaba, 621 (JOS 19:36, EZRA 2:26). 
    • Ruben:           The children of Nebo, 52 (1 CHR 5:8, EZRA 2:29). 
    • Ephraim:        Men of Bethel and Ai, 223 (EZRA 2:28)

  • The Brit Chadashah mentions Chanah from the tribe of Asher present.
  • The Brit Chadashah is about restoring the covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Yeshua poured His blood for this (MT 26:28) foreshadowing that He would pour out His Spirit too (also symbolized by the water & blood which came out of His side). How could the covenant have been restored if only the House of Judah was present but not the House of Israel? It wouldn’t have been possible.But the Covenant was restored, and the Brit Chadashah was ratified – thus we know that representatives of all the Twelve Tribes were present. They were the people into whose hearts God put His Spirit & His Torah on Shavuot, seven weeks after Yeshua’s death – as prophesied in JER 31:31-33.That both, the House of Judah & the House of Israel was present at the crucifixion is also confirmed through EX 12:47 which tells us that all the congregation of Israel shall keep it (Pesach – a type of the crucifixion).
  • Adding 7 times more punishment to the end of captivity in 536 BC takes us to 1948 (7 x 360 = 2520 solar yrs. = 2484 prophetic yrs.). This prophecy in LEV 26 was given to ALL Israel, not just to the House of Judah.Thus, the regathering and reunification of Israel & Judah as per EZEK 37 occurred in 1948, with the Valley of Bones picturing the Shoah/Holocaust (they that were ready to perish in Assyria [Germany], and the outcasts in the land of Egypt [the whole world] were regathered into their homeland: ISRAEL. (I don’t think anyone will suppose that the Word of God, the God of Israel has nothing to say about the Shoah & the founding of the State of Israel).

These are just a few considerations. To uphold the claim that all of the Ten-tribed Israelites were carried away, did never return, but vanished among the nations, that claim is a subtle way to deny the Brit Chadashah which was ratified 2,000 years ago.

Though at first glance the Shoah doesn’t seem to be relevant here, it does indeed tell us a lot about the fate of the House of Israel & the House of Judah.




Comment by Jake Wilson on June 26, 2018 at 4:51am

Hi J-M,

Yes, this makes more sense - thanks.

I simply don't like the extreme position which says no one from the Ten Tribes returned.

JER 31:31-33 occured 2,000 years at Pentecost, and whether the 120 talimidim who were the first to receive God's Spirit where representatives of the 12 Tribes is a bit guesswork (though 120 is a significant number). Be that as it may, another 3,000 got saved that day and as per Scripture The House of Judah & The House of Israel was represented - period (consequently, the Jewish Diaspora between 70 AD / 135 AD and 1948 also had a certain contingent of Ten-tribed Israelites).

I have often heard the claim that the rebirth of the State of Israel can't be the "regathering of Israel" the Bible talks about, because a) the Zionist movement was secular, and b) not all the Jews were brought back into their land. Apart from the fact, that God uses all kinds of people to fulfil His providence, Scripture shows that God would only bring back representatives of the 12 Tribes, but not all of them straight away: Return, O backsliding children, says YHWH: for I am a master unto you, and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Tziyon (JER 3:14).

But by claiming that the House of Israel (10 Tribes) has never returned, one denies that EZEK 37 has come to pass, i.e., the uniting of the two sticks ISRAEL & JUDAH - and that's what I vehemently oppose.

I may be a bit sensitive on this subject because I have been taught "British Israel" for years, viz. the doctrine that Ephraim = the British Commonwealth, and Manasse = USA. This went so far as to claim that the present Queen Elizabeth is a successor of King David, that the "Stone of Scone" or "Stone of Destiny" on which the British monarchs are crowned is Jacob's pillar stone, etc.

As said, I don't deny that the majority of the Western world has descended from Ephraim (as you wrote), I just don't like replacement theology, and "British Israel" goes in that direction.

As far as I remember Yair Davidy points out a lot of good evidence, e.g., Denmark (the mark of Dan), or that Dansk in Poland was once called "Gyddansk", confirming that Gad & Dan migrated together, or the link between Spain/Iberia & Hebrew, or that the Scots mention Israel as their origin in the "Scottish Declaration of Independence", etc.

As I was born in Germany, I have an interest in my origins. Alhough there are surely some pockets in Germany which are of Israelite descent, for the most part Germany is of Assyrian origin (there's is a lot of evidence for this). The Holocaust which was committed by Germany (Assyria) and supported by the Papacy (Babylon), is simply another antitype of the events prophesied in the Tanakh. So, this is an example of a nation which for the most part is not of Ephraimite but of Assyrian descent (and you will have seen "The Shoah in the Bible" is attached to my previous message - if you are interestes).

Anyway, thanks again for your input J-M.

I will get my eth-Cepher today, can't wait...


Comment by Jake Wilson on June 27, 2018 at 11:27am

Just one more point.

In Jeremiah’s day we read: “Hear, ye children of Israel, behold how many ye are who remain of the TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL.” (2. Baruk 77:2)

Thus, not all Israelites of the TEN TRIBES had been carried away to Assyria (at least not if one agrees that this is inspired Scripture).


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