The Lost Ten Northern Tribes (Week 29, Part 1/6) 2 Kings 17-25 | July 11- July 17 – powered by Happy Scribe
Chapter 17 is pivotal in the Old Testament because it marks the collapse of the Kingdom of Israel.
Just for a reminder, when the Israelites conquered the Holy Land, they were twelve tribes, and then they had a bunch of judges. Eventually they were all united under kings. First Saul, then David, and then Solomon. But then after Solomon died, the ten northern tribes, which are called the Kingdom of Israel, broke away and started their own kingdom with a capital in Samaria.
And what was left was in the south at Jerusalem, was a kingdom of Judah. So you now effectively have two separate kingdoms of brothers or even cousins. The Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of Judah. The Kingdom of Israel is where you have the ten northern tribes.
And it’s very clear throughout the biblical record that the ten northern tribes that their leaders persistently took the people away from the paths of God. And around the year 721 BC, god finally allowed the people to bear the full, ripe fruit of their own iniquity, and the ten northern tribes were conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrian war machine. If you study the ancient Assyrians, these were not people to be trifled with. They ruled by blood and horror. They would impale people.
They would skin people alive. They would poke out people’s eyes and chop off thumbs or hands and send people running to the next city saying, if you do not give in to the Assyrians, this is what will happen to you. The Assyrians also, in order to control their entire expanding empire, again used power, force, and violence. It would forcefully remove people from one location and repopulate them somewhere else in the kingdom and take people conquered in another part of the kingdom and put them in another spot. So this is actually what happens with the Israelites, is that they fell because they were not faithful and not allowed the Assyrians to take them to other locations.
And the reason they’re called the ten lost tribes is because after they go into captivity in the Assyrian Empire, we essentially lose track of where they are. Now, I’ve heard lots of theories about where these people are at. I would point out the purpose of our missionary work is to gather Israel and patriarchal blessings is a great way to learn where people are from in terms of their lineage. The little we do know about where they went is we know from the text that they went to an area which is near the modern day Turkish Syrian border, near the river Kaboor. But after that, we lose track of them.
They lost the history, and that’s why they’re called the Ten lost tribes. And I’ll just say in passing that anybody telling you otherwise that they had found the tribes, they know where they’re from, is probably trying to sell you something. But I want to point out something significant that the inspired Bible authors wanted us to hear because after the fall of Samaria or the ten northern tribes, the Kingdom of Israel, the inspired Bible writers explain some of the reasons why God’s protecting power did not remain with these people. If you turn to verses seven to 23, you can listen to a litany of reasons for why the Israelites were no longer protected. Verse seven the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, and walked in the statues of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.
And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God. They built them high places in all their cities, from the Tower of the Watchmen to the fence city and on and on. Essentially, the people were covenantly, unfaithful to God. If you take a marriage metaphor, they cheated on God again and again and again. And God finally says, all right, since you want to be cheating, I’m going to send you off to go live with your cheating partners.
Now, it’s significant to understand the covenant of context that goes on here, that God is the God of the promised land. He owns it, he’s the landlord. We all get to live there if we abide by the agreements and the expectations of living in that land. Anybody who doesn’t abide by the rules, well, they get asked to live by the rules. If they keep breaking the rules, they’re kicked out.
If you want to go worship other gods, then go live in the land of the other gods. If you’re worshiping the gods of the Assyrians, go live in their lands. So we can see the covenant, the logic of God’s actions, that he’s saying to the people, you’re more than welcome to be in this promised land. I want you here, but you have to live the rules. And I can only sustain your disobedience for so long.
And if you are ripening your disobedience, you’ve broken the rules. You no longer have the opportunity to be in the land. You don’t have that privilege anymore. So God enos them away in our own lives. God actually has given us many promises.
These promises are sure and faithful as His God is. We simply need to show God on a regular basis that we’re loyal to Him, and he asks us every week to do that by partaking in the sacrament. Now, it’s more than just the act of putting food or water into your mouth. It’s Are we loving our neighbor? Are we taking care of the poor and the needy?
Are we doing what we can to build the kingdom of God wherever we go? There are obviously things we have to do. But just know that God is long term faithful to us. He will persist with us for years and years like he did for the Israelites. And yet God is under obligation.
If we break the rules of the promised land, we lose the promised land. And he will pursue reserve it for other people who are willing to be aligned to his covenant of faithfulness.