Who are the true Israelites?
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many different theories there are regarding what happened to the lost tribes of Israel. There are many different groups who claim to be the true descendants of the biblical Israelites.
British-Israelism (also known as Anglo-Israelism) claims that the ancient Israelites migrated to England and other parts of Europe. As a result, the people of England and the United States are the true Israelites.
The Black Hebrews or Black Israelites claim that Africans are the true Israelites.
Groups such as the “Gathering of Christ” claim that African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are the true Israelites.
There are also groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India which claim to be the true descendants of the Israelites. There is even a Japanese Israelism which claims some of the lost tribes migrated all the way to Japan.
Why do all these groups want to be recognized as the true Israelites? Simple. The Bible says that the people of Israel are God’s chosen nation (Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-9). Who, then, wouldn’t want to be a part of God’s chosen people?
I am going to propose a shocking theory here. Maybe, just maybe, the Israelis of today are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites.
Biblically speaking, the supposed “lost tribes” were never truly lost. 2 Kings 17:18 states that Israel was deported to Assyria in 722 BC. Second Chronicles 15:9 records people from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon settling in Judah long before the Assyrian invasion, however. Scripture also indicates that some of the people of the northern ten tribes remained in the land. Second Chronicles 35:18 mentions many Israelites celebrating the Passover with Judah around 90 years after Israel was deported to Assyria. When Judah was deported to Babylon in 586 BC, the Israelites who were living in Judah would have been included in the deportation. Regarding the deportees, Assyria and Babylon were in the same region. Deportees from Israel and Judah would likely have sought each other out and attempted to reunite culturally. Then, when King Cyrus gave the “Jews” the freedom to return to the land of Israel, the returnees would have been a mix of people from Israel and Judah. The title “Jew” resulted from the tribe of “Judah” being dominant.
But, since then, we have 2,500 years of history. There are Jews in most parts of the world today. Ashkenazi Jews (Jews who migrated to parts of Europe and intermarried to varying degrees with Europeans) are the dominant Jewish people group today. But this does not deny them true Israelite heritage. The Jews currently residing in Israel are not counterfeit Jews. Many/most of them are true biological descendants of the people from ancient Judah and Israel. There is no biblical, genealogical, historical, or genetic reason to deny that most modern Israelis are truly the descendants of the ancient Israelites.
Further, from God’s perspective, He knows precisely who are the inheritors of the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. Since God’s promises to Israel are especially focused on the land of Israel, it would make sense for God to be calling His people back to the land He promised them. The end times revolve, largely, around the people of Israel being in the land of Israel. God will call 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to be His witnesses (Revelation 7:4). God does not need genealogical records to know the people He has chosen.
At the same time, in this current dispensation, our relationship with God does not depend on being a member of His chosen nation (Ephesians 2:11-16). Jews and Gentiles all have equal access to the salvation that is provided through Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). In the body of Christ, we are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
So sorry to burst your bubble Anglo-Israelites, Black Israelites, and whoever-else-says-we-are-the-true-Israelites. God keeps excellent records. God knows who His people are. And the identity of His chosen nation is not a secret or a mystery to Him.
S. Michael Houdmann
Who are the true Israelites?