I am often asked the question, “Who are the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel.’” This is not a question to answer with just one or two sentences to clear the confusion. One must first understand the biblical history of our ancestors. And, it’s often helpful to have a map handy to trace that history visually in order to truly see who they are and how they got there.
The Bible records that the kingdom of Israel reached its zenith of power and influence in the days of Solomon, the son of David (1 Kings 10:24). In the generation of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the northern ten tribes seceded from the southern kingdom of Judah in response to Rehoboam’s harsh leadership (1 Kings 12). The northern ten tribes took the name Israel under their new leader Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim (1 Kings 12:20). The southern kingdom, comprised primarily of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, became known as the kingdom of Judah.
Both kingdoms eventually were taken into exile. The kingdom of Judah was exiled to Babylon in approximately the year 600 BCE (2 Kings 25) and was restored 70 years later in the 530’s BCE (2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1).
But before the exile of Judah, the kingdom of Israel was taken into exile around 720 BCE by the king of Assyria (2 Kings 17). However, there is no record, biblically or historically, of the exiles returning to the Land of Israel. In fact, the chronicler records that “Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day” (2 Kings 17:23).
Those from the ten northern tribes of Israel have become known as the “Lost Tribes of Israel” and are commonly referred to as such even today. Though the Bible records that many from among the northern tribes did dwell in the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:3, 16-17), the nomenclature has persisted.
Among many who were scattered in those days, there are isolated tribal groups around the world that have maintained an identity as the people of Israel often connected to the days of the exiles of Assyria and Babylon. Jewish Voice is privileged to work among groups often associated with the “Lost Tribes” in sharing the Good News of Yeshua as Messiah while enabling them to maintain their Jewish identity as the people of Israel.
Some of the “Lost Tribes” Among Whom JVMI Works
Over the last two decades, JVMI has been able to work among emerging Jewish groups primarily in Ethiopia, northern India and Zimbabwe.
The Beta Israel in Ethiopia are widely accepted as a Jewish community since the airlifts of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980’s and 1990’s after the ruling of Israel’s Chief Rabbi that they are in fact members of the Jewish people. The Beta Abraham and the Gefat are two groups that have their origins in the Beta Israel within Ethiopia. We have worked with members of these three groups to see over 40 Messianic Jewish congregations planted in Ethiopia to date.
In the early 2010’s JVMI began working with a group known as the B’nei Menashe in northern India. The B’nei Menashe claim to be descended from the tribe of Menasseh and some have been able to make aliyah to Israel. We are currently considering working with the B’nai Menashe again to see a congregational movement established among them.
We have consistently been working among the Lemba centered in Zimbabwe with clans also residing in areas of South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. The Lemba claim to be from the priests that chose to leave Israel rather than put away their foreign wives in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Recent DNA studies tend to substantiate their claim. In the last decade, we have partnered with the Lemba in Zimbabwe to see the establishment of over 120 congregations among them.
“All Tribes in the Next Ten Years”
With the Lord’s help and by His grace, we are believing that we will be able to proclaim the Good News of Yeshua’s death, resurrection and soon return among all the remaining “Lost Tribes” in the next decade or so. Our team is currently building contacts with groups rumored to be among the “Lost Tribes” in Central Asia, among the southeastern Asian islands, and western, central and eastern Africa. We will go to wherever the Lord has scattered our people to be sure there is a witness of Yeshua among them wherever they dwell in our day. We believe this critical mission will occur alongside of what many missiologists say will be the decade the Gospel will have a witness in every tribe and tongue. We want to do our part to be sure that the Gospel will also have been proclaimed to the Jew first. And we hope that in prayer and in partnership you will send us to All Tribes among the people of Israel in the next ten years!