The Lost Ten Tribes: A World History, by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite
I got out of this book what I expected. I did not expect to get much. As someone who has read widely concerning the travels of the “lost” ten tribes of Israel after their Assyrian captivity, and even their travels previous to that captivity, I had the (correct) feeling that the author would largely pooh-pooh any sort of genuine stories of the dispersal of the tribes throughout the body of Gentiles. What I did not expect, and that which surprised and heartened me, is that the author did not even choose to deal with the full extent of stories about the travels of the twelve tribes of Israel at all, but merely attempted to make his case using a few of the more obviously bad speculations that came from the Talmud and from mostly Jewish writers, only slightly and superficially addressing British Israelism, which the author views as monotonously repetitive because it tells a consistent story over the course of several generations (more if you go back to the Middle Ages and the book of conquests from Gerald of Wales). Where stories about the ten tribes are creative and unrealistic, the author calls them imaginative, and where they are consistent and based on a certain degree of factual research, the author dismisses them as repetitive and dull. Rarely has an author been so ill-equipped for his task.
This book of about 200 pages has all of the hallmarks of a work that is aiming for the approval of those who do not believe that Israel was really lost or really found. The author begins with a discussion of the places associated with the ten tribes–though not all of them. He discusses the deportation of Israel as it is recorded in the Bible and in Assyrian writings (1) and then goes on to Jewish speculation about imaginary far off lands (2). He discusses the accounts of generally Jewish medieval tricksters and their tales about the dispersed tribes (3) and the thoughts of a vast multitude of Israelites that existed somewhere beyond the known world (4). He then discusses the writings of the early modern period (5) and the 19th century hopes of Israel that fired Mormonism and British Israelism (6) before closing with a discussion of the general pointlessness of searching for the lost tribes and casting a great deal of negativity on various loss narratives in general far beyond what is warranted by history and some extensive but not nearly extensive enough notes.
What struck me as the most interesting thing about this book is the way that the author show a considerable unwillingness to look at the actual factual case, such as it is, for the travel of the ten tribes before and after Assyrian captivity. Is there any attempt to examine the population growth of Cathage and related Phoenecian colonies and their population sources in the period of Assyrian growth? Nope. Is there a discussion of Genesis 49 and its relevance to the search for Israel’s tribes? Not at all. Is there a discussion of second Temple Jewish or Medieval sources that show a generally sober approach to the movement of ancient peoples or a discussion of Judges 5 and how it shows that Dan had already at that point been on ships and expanded the Israelite commonwealth to other lands? Not a whit. When a reader can come to a book like this and know a lot more about the subject at hand than the author does, for all of his learned and scholarly footnotes, the author of this book has not really addressed the subject, but has rather written something to discourage the reader who is looking for truth by not drawing attention to where it may be found. Consider yourself warned.