Ok, I probably won’t get too many comments on this, but it is an interesting topic for me. For some quick background, I previously posted on this topic. I recently purchased a copy of “Quest for the Lost Tribes” by Simcha Jacobovichi. In this documentary, he tries to make a case where he identifies most of the lost tribes, and their possible locations throughout the world. He comes up with some startling conclusions.
What is interesting to me about these lost tribes is the connection to the Book of Mormon. The BOM claims that the Nephites were descendants to the Tribe of Manasseh. So I was interested to see what insights the movie might have on this tribe in particular.
First of all, we often refer to the 12 tribes of Israel, but there’s some discrepancy in numbering them. Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons: Dan, Naphtali, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Reuben, Levi, Joseph, Benjamin, Judah, Asher, Simeon. Due to idolatry, sometimes Dan is excluded from this list, and Levi did not receive land, but rather the priesthood, so this tribe is sometimes excluded from the list of the lost tribes. Joseph, as favorite son, gets both of his sons, Ephraim, and Manasseh included.
So, the Jews today are descendants of Judah. Joseph Smith claims that the American Indians are descendants of Manasseh (Joseph), so that explains how two of the tribes are not lost any more. The other 10 (or 12 tribes, depending on how you count them) were scattered by an invasion of the Assyrians in 700 BC. There is little archaeological evidence of these 10 tribes after 500 BC, so little is known about them. But there are prophecies in the Old Testament (Isaiah, Ezekiel) that these lost tribes would return to their promised land.
In the documentary, Jacobovici makes a case that he may have found large groups of people representing these lost tribes. A group in Ethiopia claims to be descendants of Dan. In the 1980′s, the chief rabbi became convinced that these Ethiopians were truly of the tribe of Dan. In the Civil War in 1991, the Israeli government airlifted this group, who practiced many Jewish customs, out of the war zone, and repatriated them in Israel, based specifically on their being a lost tribe of Israel.
1.5 million people, claiming to be descendants from the Tribe of Manasseh (Bnei Manashe) live on the India/Burma border. Many rabbis are becoming convinced that these people may be correct, and many are trying to migrate to Israel. Briefly, here are some others :
Naphtali – China and Iran
Zebulon – Bombay, India
Issachar – Uzbekistan
Tribes of Gad, Ephraim, Reuben,Simeon – can be found among the Pashtun (Pathans) tribes of Afghanistan
Asher – Tunisia
Obviously, some of these groups have converted to Christianity, and Islam. They represent various races, and don’t look like the typical image of a Jew. Most of these obscure groups have unknown origins. Many of the groups have maintained some of their old Jewish traditions. For example, the Pashtuns seem to have combined their Islam and Jewish beliefs, some still killing a Passover lamb, even though this is not an Islamic custom, and many of these tribes have Israeli sounding names, even though they are Muslim.
There is not much DNA evidence in this film. However, there is another film, which I will detail in a future post, dealing with the Lemba tribe in South Africa. They claim to be one of the lost tribes of Israel, but make no specific tribal claims. They are kosher, wear Jewish clothing, and a DNA test was done on an Episode of Digging for the Truth, which seems to indicate that they have some semitic DNA. Perhaps they descended from the Ethiopian group, perhaps another way.
While I agree that these claims are highly speculative, there are some interesting claims. The Bnei Manashe (of Burma) are part of the National Geographic Genome Project, and in 2010, we will find out if there claims can be backed up by science that they are truly Semitic people.
What do you make of these claims about the lost tribes becoming found? What are the implications for the Book of Mormon?