The lost tribes of Israel : the history of a myth


The lost tribes of Israel : the history of a myth

Tudor Parfitt

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002

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Includes bibliographic references (p. 225-267) and index



Tudor Parfitt examines a myth which is based on one of the world's oldest mysteries - what happened to the lost tribes of Israel? Christians and Jews alike have attached great importance to the legendary fate of these tribes which has had a remarkable impact on their ideologies throughout history. Each tribe of Israel claimed descent from one of the twelve sons of Jacob and the land of Israel was eventually divided up between them. Following a schism which formed after the death of Solomon, ten of the tribes set up an independent northern kingdom, whilst those of Judah and Levi set up a separate southern kingdom. In 721 BC the ten northern tribes were ethnically cleansed by the Assyrians and the "Bible" states they were placed: 'in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan and in the city of Medes.' The "Bible" also foretold that one day they would be reunited with the southern tribes in the final redemption of the people of Israel. Their subsequent history became a tapestry of legend and hearsay. The belief persisted that they had been 'lost' in some remote part of the world and there were countless suggestions and claims as to where. At a lecture Parfitt gave some years ago in Cape Town, he was approached by a group of Africans who claimed to be members of the Lemba tribe from a mysterious lost city of Sena, and of Jewish descent. The final chapter will attempt to reveal, using a combination of linguistics and genetics, what did become of these lost tribes.

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