Found: A Lost Tribe of Israel

A few weeks ago, a group of people who live in Mizoram, a state located in the north-east section of India, bordering Burma and Bangladesh, went through a process of conversion and because Jews. The process of conversion included a ritual bath known as the Mikvah, circumcision for the men, and the recitation of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

The population of Mizoram is about 800,000 people. Most of them are Christians, but there are 5,000-8,000 people who claim to be Jews. According to their claim, they are the descendants of the lost tribe of Manasseh. They call themselves Bnei Menashe or “the Children of Manasseh.” These Mizo Jews say their ancestors were deported by the Assyrians at the time of the conquest of the Northern Kingdom.

The deportation of the ten tribes that formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel is a fact. When Tiglath-pileser III became king of Assyria in 745 B. C., he established a policy of permanent conquest. Assyria reinforced this policy with brutal reprisal in case of revolts. The king of Assyria carried out the policy of total conquest by means of violence, pain, and suffering. At the beginning of his reign, Tiglath-pileser reintroduced the policy of mass deportation. The policy of mass deportation would force the conquered people to move in large numbers to other parts of the empire. The aim of deportation was to prevent the possibility of internal revolt by the vanquished people.

In order to confront the threat posed by the imperialistic dreams of Tiglath-pileser, the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Arameans (Syria) formed an alliance to fight against the Assyrians. Ahaz, king of Judah, was invited to join the coalition, but he refused.

Because of Ahaz’s refusal to join the alliance to fight against Assyria, the joint armies of Israel and Syria besieged Jerusalem with the intent of deposing Ahaz and placing on the throne of Judah another person who would be willing to fight the Assyrians.

Ahaz, in panic, sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser asking for military help. He paid a tribute to Assyria by using the gold and silver from the temple and from the royal treasury, and asked for military assistance. In response to Ahaz’s invitation, Tiglath-pileser came to Palestine to help Judah.

Tiglath-pileser invaded Syria, killed Rezin, king of the Arameans, and deported the people of Syria to Kir (2 Kings 16:8-9). Tiglath-pileser also conquered several cities in Galilee and Naphtali, deporting some of the people to Assyria. The Bible says: “In the days of King Pekah of Israel, King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria” ( 2 Kings 15:29). As for the tribe of Manasseh, the Bible says: “So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day” (1 Chronicle 5:26).

Several years after the death of his father, Shalmaneser V, the son of Tiglath-pileser conquered all the cities of the Northern Kingdom. He then besieged Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, for three years. Just before Samaria fell to Assyria, Shalmaneser V was killed in battle.

With the death of Shalmaneser, Sargon II, his brother, became king of Assyria. Sargon finished the conquest of Samaria in 722 B.C. and deported 27,290 inhabitants to other parts of the Assyrian empire. The Bible says: “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6).

After the people of Israel arrived in Assyria, families and clans were scattered throughout the empire and from this point on they moved from place to place and apparently lost contact with each other through assimilation into Assyrian culture. The disappearance of these deported people gave rise to the legend of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

The concept of the “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel” is very controversial. The basic idea refers to the disappearance of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The people who lived in the cities of Israel and the inhabitants of Samaria, its capital, were deported to different parts of the Assyrian empire and blended in with other people and cultures present in Assyrian society and then disappeared from the pages of history.

Over the years, many groups have made claims that they are the remnants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Among these are some tribal people of Afghanistan, the Jews of the Sahara, and some people in China, Egypt, and Iran.

In this country, Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Radio Church of God, believed that the Anglo-Saxons, the Scandinavians, and the Germanic peoples are the living descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believes that the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes will be in North America. The 10th article of the Mormon’s Articles of Faith states: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon this continent [the Americas].”

Are the Mizo Jews the descendants of the lost tribe of Manasseh? Jewish scholars are divided over the claims of the Bnei Menashe. A report by an anthropologist claiming that there are similarities between the rituals of the Jewish people prescribed in Leviticus and the cultic practices of the Mizo Jews has provided a ray of hope for those who claim that the Mizo Jews are one of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Genetic studies have not demonstrated a link between the Mizo Jews and the Jews of Israel. Both the Mitochondrial DNA, passed from mother to child, and the Y-chromosomal Aaron, the supposed chromosome that all descendants of Aaron should share, have not established an ethnic relationship between the two groups.

As for the claims of the Mizo Jews, the decision has been made. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has declared that the people who live in Mizoram and claim to be descendants of the tribe of Manasseh are indeed the lost tribe of Manasseh.

The rabbinical court has given its blessing to the claims of the Mizo Jews. The process of conversion is complete and now, under the laws of return, these new Jews will soon immigrate to Israel and, for the first time in 3,000 years, enjoy the blessing of living in the Promised Land.

The lost tribe of Manasseh has been found. Or so they say!

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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18 Responses to Found: A Lost Tribe of Israel

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is one of the world’s least-scrutinized topics. It is anathema to the secular Intelligentsia because it would validate the Bible. The chances of Academia accepting the Lost Tribes premise is as close to “NEVER” as one can get. You write about DNA tests that do not match the Aaron blood, but two quick points there:1) Moses and Aaron were of Levi, a full brother of Judah, while Joseph, the father of Manasseh, was only a half-brother. Although Joseph’s mother was a sister to Levi’s mother, Manasseh’s mother was an Egyptian.2) Strictly speaking, only the offspring of Judah are “Jews” (David’s tribe, perhaps including the sons of Benjamin and Levi, loosely speaking, since those 3 tribes composed David’s southern kingdom and were not exiled permanently).plus,3) There may be some citizens in the state of Israel who can prove they are of the bloodline of Manasseh or Ephraim; I wonder how their DNA would compare to typical Americans or the English?Any comment? The people who recently converted to Judaism may indeed be of Manasseh, but are likely only a tiny fraction of the whole tribe today, since Jacob’s name was placed on Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen 48:19). They were to become “a multitude of nations” and “a great nation” respectively. A lot of intermarriage no doubt occurred along the way with other nationalities, so their Joseph blood could be quite diluted now but still valid (though probably a dominant gene). Comment? (Note: Orthodox Jews have been awaiting a reunion with the 10 northern tribes as a sign of the approaching coming of the Messiah.)

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  2. Dear Friend,

    I am sorry for the delay in answering the comments you posted on the lost tribe of Israel. I was out of the state and unable to answer your comments.Your comments raise many issues that cannot be easily answered with this brief commentary. For this reason, I have decided to write a second article on the lost tribes of Israel. On Friday, September 30, I will post a second entry on this topic, which you called “the world’s least-scrutinized” topic. Until then, I invite other readers to ask questions and make additional comments about the views expressed in the article.Today, I have just one comment. Christians also share the aspirations of the Orthodox Jews about the reunion of the ten tribes. The New Testament teaches in Roman 11 and Revelation 7 that Israel will be saved and gathered at the end of time, at the beginning of the Messianic age.As for the people of Mizoram, this is another issue that must await another day.

    Claude Mariottini
    Professor of Old Testament
    Northern Baptist Seminary

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear Dr. Mariottini,

    I’m no expert on the lost ten tribes of Israel, and find your article very interesting and informative. The idea that some Mizos and folks from some tribes in that region belong to the lost tribe of Manasseh, however, sounds rather farfetched and unlikely to be true. People in the Mizo region were animists and spirit worshipers, until the coming of Christianity in the mid to late1800’s. Many Mizos are very familiar with the phrase “from headhunters to soul-hunters” signifying the change that Christianity brought to their culture. If indeed some Mizos were Jews to start with, one would expect some unique Jewish practices, whether it be dietary restrictions, or ritual observances, or some belief system, to have been handed down from generation to generation. Even if those practices were lost, one would expect at least some oral historical accounts about ancestors who were ‘different’ from their peers and neighbors. The cultic practices of Mizo Jews noticed by the anthropologist you mention makes me wonder whether he/she was able to verify for how long these practices have been observed, and how they differ from cultic practices of other non-Jewish Mizos.I think the person who responded to your blog was accurate in describing the Mizo Jews as the “people who recently converted to Judaism” . . . I would consider the Mizo Jews as converts rather than literally being descendants of Manasseh who have now been found. It will be interesting to see what further research unearths, or whether this question will ever be resolved.

    SJP

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  4. Dear SJP,

    I agree with your conclusions about the Mizo Jews. Every research that has been done on this issue points to the fact that the Mizos came to the knowledge of Judaism very late in their cultural history. Scholars cannot find any trace of religious practices similar to the practices of the people of Israel in the cultural life of the Mizos until after they came to the knowledge of Christianity.If the Mizos were descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, researchers would have found in their history vestiges of the practices that resemble some of the religious practices of the Old Testament. To my knowledge, no such evidence has been discovered yet.Soon, I will post my second entry on the lost tribes of Israel. Visit http://www.claudemariottini.com again and read my new entry on the Mizo Jews. I hope to provide some additional information that will better clarify my views on this issue.I thank you for your comments. I hope that you will send your views on other issues discussed in future essays.

    Claude F. Mariottini
    Professor of Old Testament
    Northern Baptist Seminary

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  5. Anonymous says:

    A suggested correction to your discussion on the finding of one of the lost tribes:”The Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believes that the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes will be in North America. “Should be, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as The Mormon Church…”The 10th article of the Mormon’s Articles of Faith states: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon this continent [the Americas].”This might not be quite the correct interpretation of the LDS article of faith. Mormons do believe in the restoration of the Ten Tribes, and they believe that Zion will be built in the Americas, but that does not mean that the 10 tribes are restored in America. The two events are not necessarily at the same time and place.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Question: Does Israel have an official organization that tests for genetic proof of Jewish descent? If so, what is the name or the organization? Thank you.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    >I’m a Mizo guy doing his doctoral course from US. These so-called Mizo-Jews are not Jews at all. I have a close related converted to Judaism. When Rabbis from Isreal came, a lot of stories were made up. Christianity is very deep-rooted among us. It is Christianity that brings us close to Judaism. We must never be fooled as to think that we are descendant of Abraham in blood. This is denying Jesus as Christ. Words cannot explain this thing. Many of them migrated to Israel with the hope of better lives… History will prove… anyways.

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  8. jstark says:

    For many years I have studied the migrations, forced exile, and movement of the Hebrew people, particularly the Israelites. It comes to mind a simple rule of thumb; if the Mizo are, indeed, converted to Judiasm or familiar with Judiasm due to their Christian parenting, someone had to live in the same territory to do the converting.Therefore, it would be a simple probablility that there are people in, around, or of these Mizo people who are of a Tribe of Israel.The same can be said about the people of northern Europe who spellthier names without any use of vowels in their names; just as is so per the Hebrew, no vowels. Coincidence? Perhaps, but, plenty of room for discussion since this is more of an anomoly than a general practice back during times of bene’ Israel.

    Jstark – Michigan

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Shalom,

    I ever heard that there is a Tribe in Sumatera, Indonesia, namelay the Batak Toba People, they have a religion is similarly with Ancient Israelite Religion. Their Religion is PARMALIM or Ugamo Malim. This religion means Holy Faith.They believe in one God, Mulajadi Nabolon, The First of the Migthy or the God Almighty. They always worship on Saturday (Samisara), and they will not do any activities because it’s forbbiden, they sacrifice animals for redemption and Blessings. They have a priesthood with Altar, they do the sacrifice outside of the House of Worship, they sacrifice goat, and cows. On the sevent day, when every boy-child was born, the child will bring to the priest to bath with water and name him.They also married with their realtives, if the elder died, the wife of the elder sholud marry with the brother of the elder, and so on.But many things in Ancinet Isralite Customs in Batak Toba Customs too. In Batak Toba Land, there are much incenses, they are the best incenses for ritual in the holy temple.Barus is the Great Harbour in Tapanuli, The Northen Sumatera. In the past, may people from Middle Eastern including the Nestorian Christians came to Barus.So if you want to search and investigate you may learn them.

    Shalom

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  10. Anonymous says:

    The Batak Toba People with their religion Parmalim has a rule, namelay, they will not eat pork (pig), Dog, Blood, and the other animals, because it’s not holy.They believe those things are not suggested and forbidden before God. they have a clothes with fringes in their customs, today the follower of the Parmalim just over 1500 till 7000. In the religion, They call God as Father of Batak Toba Tribe.Even though many Batak Toba People are Christians, many Batak Christian hated their Forefather’s religion because they believe Jesus more than their legacy.Today, many Batak Toba People became the best Lawyers, Soldiers, Polices, Teachers or Lectures, Officials in The Government and etc…

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  11. Dear Friend,

    Thank you for this information on the Batak Toba people. I did not know about their existence. I will try to find out more about them. Your information is very interesting.Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Claude Mariottini

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  12. Anonymous says:

    In 1841 a book appeared, The Nestorians, or the Lost Tribes – Evidence of their Identity, published in New York, by Asahel Grant, who was a medical missionary. This is a very interesting book, for many Nestorian Christians were Isralites and Jews (Judah & Benjamites).Nestorian Christianity was born in the Middle East, spread to the east, including in Barus, Tapanuli, North Sumatera. sixth century A.D, Nestorians came to Barus.He claims that everyone in the areas of Persia (Iran), Iraq, Armenia, and Kurdistan believes that the Nestorians are the descendants of the Lost Tribes and Jews and they indeed behave in manners very close to the Tribes of Israel.

    If you want to know about The Batak Toba People, please contact to my email: the_polliwog@yahoo.com

    Shalom

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  13. Dear Friend,

    Thank you for this information. I will look for the book. I will also be sending you an email soon.

    Claude Mariottini

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Dear DR Claude Mariottini,

    I think I’ll help you to find the book that I told you before. Here it is:The Nestorians or The Lost Tribe, Containing Evidence of Their Identity, An Account of Their Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, together with sketches of travel in ancient Assyria, Armenia, Media, and Mesopotamia, illustrations of Scripture prophecy, and appendices.Grant gives an account of his encounters with the “Nestorians”, arguing that they “are indeed the representatives and lineal descendants of the Ten Tribes.” Despite this unlikely theory, his vivid description of their life and traditions provide a valuable resource on the ‘Nestorian” Christians in the early 1800s.

    Note: Chapters have no headings, but many subheadings. The first subheading is given here.This is the book. You may copy and paste.

    Or just Clik on the site below: http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/pc-269-57-grant-asahel-the-nestorians-or-the-lost-tribe.aspx

    Shalom

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  15. Dear Friend,

    Thank you for this information. I will check the book.

    Claude Mariottini

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  16. Renaldo says:

    dear dr.claude,

    i ever heard to about bataknese people , a lot of literature in internet,now it just like kind of hot topic about Batak Toba-Israel, here i have some reference about the similarity (comparing)batak literature and israel / jew literature,: fidelharmony.googlepages.com/SastraBudayaToba.pdf, but maybe you’ll need an indonesian translator to translate this document,hope it will help you,

    thx, renaldo_darlimo@yahoo.com

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  17. Prajaya says:

    Dear Prof. Claude Mariottini, I think Batak Toba is descended from Naphtali by their house ornaments. But it’s just what I thought.

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    • Prajaya,

      Thank you for your comment. I cannot say much about what you mentioned in your comment. Many groups claim to be part of the lost tribes of Israel, but it is difficult to prove these claims.

      Claude Mariottini

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