After Solomon's death, ancient Palestine was split into two kingdoms. The southern two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, stayed loyal to Solomon's son Rehoboam. The ten northern tribes set up their own kingdom, Israel, under king Jeroboam. The northern kingdom was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the southern kingdom was conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. In 458 B.C. Cyrus, king of Persia, made this proclamation (Ezra 1:3):

All Jews throughout the kingdom may now return to Jerusalem to rebuild this Temple of Jehovah, who is the God of Israel and of Jerusalem. May his blessings rest upon you.

In the book of Ezra, this is followed by Ezra 1:5-6

Then God gave a great desire to the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and to the priests of Levites, to return to Jerusalem at once to rebuild the Temple. And all the Jewish exiles who chose to remain in Persia gave them whatever assistance they could, as well as gifts for the Temple.

So, the question is, was it only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who returned to Palestine, or was it all of the twelve tribes? When Cyrus referred to "All Jews", did he just mean those of Judah and Benjamin, or all Israelis? If it was all the twelve tribes, as most people believe, then all is well and good. But what if it was only two tribes? Then you have Ten Lost Tribes, and the problem of where they went.

Of course, the lost tribes could have simply assimilated into Assyria/Babylon/Persia, but that would hardly be very interesting, now would it? So some people think that they migrated somewhere else. The Mormons believe that some of the lost tribes migrated to the Americas and became the Native Americans. British Israelism believe that the migrated to north-western Europe and became the Anglos, Saxons and Celts; Christian Identity takes this one step further and claims that modern day Jews aren't really descended from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but are impostors. Some believe that the Japanese are a lost tribe. Some Rastafarians believe that they are a lost tribe. The more looney subgroups of British Israelism and Christian Identity use The Great Pyramid and Stonehenge as evidence for their theories.

Of course, this ignores the fact that none of the cultures, religions and languages of the supposed "lost tribes" is in any way related to those of the ancient Israelites. British Israelism takes a few stabs at it. For instance, it argues that the word "British" is derived from the two Hebrew words "b'rith" (pronounce "Brit"), meaning "covenant", and "ish", meaning man. Thus "British" means "man of the covenant". However, it would more closely translate as "covenant of man". There are a few other words/phrases that are pointed out as being derived from Hebrew, but linguistics has shown that seeming connections like this between languages happen by pure random chance; there would be a lot more evidence laying around if English actually was derived from Hebrew.

Since there isn't any archeological, linguistic or anthropological evidence for the lost tribes, believers in this theory use various quotes from the Bible to demonstrate that there must be lost tribes out there somewhere, and then drag out obscure historical facts and linguistic coincidences to show where they went.

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