The Taliban and the Lost Tribes of Israel

According to a report published by Arutz Sheva, scientists at the National Institute of Immunohaematology in Mumbai, India have concluded that a large group of Taliban Muslims may be the descendants of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The same report also says that an Israeli rabbinical expert agrees with this view.

The following is an excerpt from the report published by Arutz Sheva:

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichayil, who has dedicated his life to seeking out descendants of the Ten Tribes and bringing them to Israel, says he does not need or trust genetic testing for this purpose: “Rashi’s explanation to Jeremiah 31, 20 implies that the way to identify the Ten Lost Tribes will be via the Jewish customs that they maintain – and in this case, there are many of them.”

Rabbi Avichayil says that the Jewish-like customs that have been found among the Pathans – many of whom are now of the Taliban tribe – include sidelocks, ritual circumcision at eight days, cities of refuge for accidental killers, four-cornered garments, ritual immersion for women, and more. They also practice levirate marriage – not according to Moslem custom, which allows for various relatives of the deceased to marry a widow, whether or not she has children, but rather closer to Jewish custom, in that only brothers can marry only childless-widows.

The very name of the Afridi tribe, of which many members belong to the Taliban, indicates its origin from the Israelite Tribe of Ephraim, Rabbi Avichayil says. “The Pathans, 22 million strong, include not only the Afridic tribe, some 7.5 million people, but also the Rabanis, the Gadis, the Asheris, etc. – indications that many of them are of the Ten Tribes.”

Rabbi Avichayil says that the return of the remnant of the lost tribes of Israel will be the fulfilment of Jeremiah 31:20. Jeremiah 31:20 says:

“Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to Me,
A child that is dandled!
Whenever I have turned against him,
My thoughts would dwell on him still.
That is why My heart yearns for him;
I will receive him back in love, declares the LORD.”

These words of Yahweh come at the end a lament (Jeremiah 31:18-20) in which Ephraim is lamenting its sin which caused its exile away from its native land:

Indeed I heard Ephraim pleading:
You disciplined me, and I took the discipline;
I was like a calf untrained.
Bring me back, let me come back,
for you are the Lord my God.

In this lament Ephraim confesses having been disciplined by Yahweh. The mention of the discipline imposed on Ephraim may be a reference to the exile of the Northern tribes which occurred in 722 B.C. after the fall of Samaria and the deportation of 27,290 people by Sargon II, king of Assyria.

Ephraim’s cry, “Bring me back, let me come back,” is an appeal to God, imploring his mercy and forgiveness. More than a return from exile, Ephraim is asking to be restored to fellowship with God without which Ephraim will continue to be separated from God and condemned to remain in the land of his exile. Thus, before Ephraim can be restored, God must act, and act he does:

“Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to Me,
A child that is dandled!
Whenever I have turned against him,
My thoughts would dwell on him still.
That is why My heart yearns for him;
I will receive him back in love, declares the LORD.”

The words of Yahweh in Jeremiah 31:20 reveal the depths of divine pathos and the great love the Lord has for Ephraim. God’s words reveal the tender feelings of a father who truly cares for his son. Thus, God’s words about Ephraim reveal that however much Ephraim has sinned against God, God will still remember him because Ephraim is his beloved son.

It is clear that God’s word in Jeremiah 31:20 was spoken to the remnant of the Northern tribes now in exile. An audience today hearing these words of God probably will understand “that on the other side of judgment is a God of grace and mercy waiting expectantly to receive his wayward child back again” (Lundbom, p. 447).

Jack Lundbom, in his commentary on Jeremiah couples Ephraim’s lament in Jeremiah 31:18-20 with Rachel’s lament in Jeremiah 31:15-17. He wrote:

When both poems in vv 18-20 are heard following the poems in vv 15-17, Rachel’s weeping will be balanced by the tearful confession of Ephraim, and it will be understood that Rachel’s sons are not gone but simply languishing in exile. Both laments receive comforting answers, with Yahweh making clear his intention to bring the exiles home and restore them to favor (p. 447).

If these Taliban Muslims are indeed the remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, then their return to Israel may be the fulfillment of God’s words in Jeremiah 31:20.


Jack R. Lundbom, Jeremiah 21-36. The Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 2004.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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5 Responses to The Taliban and the Lost Tribes of Israel

  1. Nate says:

    >This is not a new idea and has been around for some time. (I've heard it before, but cannot recall where). In fact, just today I was doing some research on Benjamin Disraeli and came across reference to one of his pieces of works, Tancred. While flipping through it, I came across this statement by one of the book's characters:'The fate of the Ten Tribes is a deeply interesting question,' said Tancred; 'but involved in, I fear, inexplicable-obscurity. In England there are many who hold them to be represented by the Afghans, who state that their ancestors followed the laws of Moses. But perhaps they ceased to exist and were blended with their conquerors.'


  2. >Nate,I appreciate your input. You have a way of adding to whatever post I write. I knew about the idea of the lost tribes in India, but I had not heard that some of the Afghan people had been identified with the Lost Tribes of Israel.Claude Mariottini


  3. Nate says:

    >Dr. Mariottini, I learn a great deal from your blog every day and I just enjoy contributing to the discussion. Thank you.–Nathan


  4. Pingback: A Lost Tribe Returns to Israel | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament

  5. Pingback: A Lost Tribe Returns to Israel | Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

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