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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 20: Lost Ten Tribes of Israel


Chapter 20:
Lost Ten Tribes of Israel:

Jacob was named Israel after he had successfully wrestled with a mysterious antagonist near the brook of Jabbok (Gen., 32 : 24-28). From there he went to Haran and married Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah and Rachel. He had twelve sons and they were to stand in particular relation to at least one of the twelve tribes. But Joshua had been ordered to exclude the descendants of Levi from enumeration amongst the children of Israel (Nu., 1 : 49) and they were deprived of all inheritance (Jos., 14 : 3) as they had to act as priests (Nu., 18 : 7). Joseph, on the contrary, was head of two tribes as his sons - Ephraim and Manasseh - were founders of two tribes called after their names; and thus the twelve tribes of Israel were made up: Reuben (the Reubenites), Simeon (the Simeonites), Judah, Issachar (the Issacharites), Zebulun (the Zebulunites), Dan (the Danites), Ephraim son of Joseph (the Ephramites), Manasseh, son of Joseph (the Manessites), Benjamin (the Benjamites), Naphtali the Naphtalites), Gad (the Gaddites), Asher (the Asherites).

The word Israel signified all the descendants of Jacob at any one time personified as a single individual. It was so applied during his lifetime (Gen., 35 : 10) and was also common in the wilderness and during the wandering (Ex., 32: 4; Deut., 4 : 1) though more often than not they were styled as "Children of Israel'' (Gen., 46 : 8. Ex., 1 : 1; Nu., 1 : 2; Deut., 29 : 1).

Joshua partitioned the Holy Land-the land of inheritance given to Abraham among the Children of Israel and the greater part of Southern Palestine was occupied by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; while the remaining ten tribes settled in Northern Palestine. The capital of the ten tribes during the longest period of their history in Palestine was Samaria, a town built by Omri, king of Israel (925 BCE) and it continued to be the capital of the Kingdom of Israel till captivity of the ten tribes.

The twelve tribes, after their wanderings, had united themselves and were "judged" or ruled by one of their elected leaders. The "king" was not designed to be a sovereign acting on his own despotic will, but rather had to follow the Divine Will as revealed to the prophets and the decision of a gathering of seventy-two elders, six from each of the tribes. This body so selected was called a "council" and later assumed the form of the Sanhedrin.

King Saul was the first Israelite king of the United Monarchy. On his death, however, civil war broke out and his son Ishbosheth was assassinated after a brief reign of two years. David became king of Judah, and it was not until he had reigned at Hebron for about seven years that he was invited to be the overlord of Israel as well (2 Sam., 5 :3). He captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his capital. He was succeeded by his son Solomon, "the wisest of all men of West and East " (I Kings, 5 : 30). He built a splendid temple for the worship of Jehovah (I Kings, 6 : 14, 38), a magnificent palace for himself and other palaces for his wives. During his reign commerce flourished in his kingdom and India was visited by land, sea and air (The Biblical history has no record of any journey by air, but it is repeatedly mentioned in Oriental traditions). Ophir, a place near the mouth of the Indus, was reached (Josephus, Antiq., 8 , 6 : 4). We hear of gold, silver, ivory, algum-trees (It has sometimes been asserted that Ophir was in Africa or Arabia but the algum-tree, which is sandalwood is neither found in Africa nor in Arabia and grows exclusively in India. Dummelow says that Ophir is identified with the coast near the mouth of the Indus (Commentary on the Holy Bible, 218), pheasants and peacocks reaching his court. He also built a great mound, an artificial embankment on the east side of the Temple area towards the valley of Kidron. On top of it he built a small temple for himself, in which later on his son Absalom was buried. The mound was called after Solomon's name and the temple gradually became known as the "Throne" or "Porch of Solomon'' (Josephus. Antiq., 20.19 : 7; cf. Wars, 5, 5. 1).

Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. He had hardly ascended the throne when, as a result of heavy taxation, a revolt headed by Jeroboam, an Ephramite exile, broke out in 975 BCE. As a result of this rebellion all but the two tribes of Israel were lost for ever to the house of David. Jeroboam became ruler of the ten tribes, and the new kingdom was called the Kingdom of Israel. The House of David, however, continued to rule over the Kingdom of Judah. Thus it came about that the term Israel began exclusively to be applied to the Ten Tribes, while Judah signified the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It may also be mentioned here that the term "Jew" originally signified a descendant of Judah, the son of Jacob, or one belonging to the tribes of or to the kingdom of Judah. Later on, this meaning was extended, and the word was applied to those who had returned from captivity, and finally it comprehended any one of the Hebrew race throughout the world (Esther, 2 : 5; Matt., 2 : 2). The term Jewry was applied to the territory belonging to the kingdom of Judah (Dan., 5 : 13).

The gulf between the Israelites and Jews thus created was made wide by Jeroboam, who, with a view to prevent his subjects from visiting Jerusalem and their being won over to their old allegiance, established two shrines, one at Dan and the other at Bethel, for the worship of the Golden Calf. The relations of the two kingdoms were naturally those of mutual hostility. War between Israel and Judah went on in a languid way during the first six years of their separate existence (I Kings, 14 : 30; 15 : 7, 16; 2 Chron., 12 : 15; 13 : 2-3). This perpetuated a morbid habit and mistrust between the two groups. King Jehu of Israel (884 BCE) fought with King Athaliah of Judah. King Pekah entered into an alliance with King Rezin of Syria and invaded Judah and carried back a considerable number of captives, but they had to be released at the remonstrance of the prophet Oded (II Chron., 28 : 8-15). This act of Israel brought about the prediction of Isaiah regarding the destruction of the Israelite and Syrian kingdoms by the Assyrians (Isa., 7 : 4-15, 17). King Ahaz of Judah, being terrified for his throne and life, called in the Assyrians. Consequently Tiglath-pileser conquered Samaria in 740 BCE and carried some of the inhabitants to Assyria (II Kings, 15 : 29). Pekah was slain and so was Rezin. Thus began the captivity of the ten tribes.

In Samaria, the capital of The Ten Tribes, worship of Baal had been set up (I Kings, 16 : 30-32). The cup of Israelite iniquities had been filling for years. Hoshea had become king and his iniquities added only the last drop which made the cup full to overflowing. He killed Pekah and then revolted against the Assyrians at the instigation of the Egyptian king (II Kings, 17 : 4). Shalmaneser IV at once invaded the country and in 722 BCE placed Samaria under a siege which lasted for three years (II Kings, 18 : 9-10). The length to which the siege was drawn out caused a revolt of the military officers in the Assyrian army. Sargon, the leader of the mutiny, killed Shalmaneser and himself became king. He successfully completed the siege and carried almost all the remainder of the Ten Tribes into a captivity from which they never returned (II Kings, 17 : 6; 18 : 11). The captives were carried to Assyria, Mesopotamia and Media (Josephus, Antiq., 15 , 2 : 2; Wars, 2 , 16 : 4). The vacant country of Samaria was repopulated by colonists from five districts of the Assyrian empire and these colonists ultimately developed into the Samaritan nation (11 Kings, 17 : 24). It is for this reason that the Jews both south and north of that region considered Samaria to be a forbidden country and had an intense antipathy for the Samaritans.

In about 711 BCE Hezekiah, king of Judah, with a view to fight Sargon, entered into an alliance with the king of Babylon. This brought on them the wrath of Sargon, who fell upon them and they were defeated before they had time to put up a united front. (There is no mention of this event in the Book of Kings or of the Chronicles, but it is referred to by Isaiah (10 : 5-24), and is distinctly recorded in the Assyrian Monuments.)

The Assyrian kingdom, however, gradually became decrepit and Nabonasser, one of the Assyrian generals, on entering Babylon, proclaimed himself as the independent ruler of the country. In 686 BCE the Assyrian empire was conquered by the united forces of Babylon and Media, and the empire was partitioned between the victors. Nabonasser was succeeded by his son Nebuchadnezzar (Heb. Nebhu-khad-netstsar) (II Kings, 24 : 1) who is known in the East as Bakht-i-Nassar.

Early in his reign, Jehoiakim, king of Judah, renounced his allegiance to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, at once put himself at the head of an army consisting of Babylonians and Medes and advanced against Jehoiakim, who ultimately had to surrender and was put to death. It was then the destiny of the two tribes of Judah to be taken to Babylon (II Kings, 24 : 14; II Chron., 36 : 6-7) though this their first deportation was on a limited scale. It was in this captivity that Daniel and his three companions were taken away (Dan., 1 : 6). The second deportation of Judah followed in 599 BCE in the reign of Jehoiachin. It was on a much larger scale (11 Kings, 24 : 12-16). Then came the crowning captivity of all. Zedekiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had placed on the throne in place of his father Jehoiachin, proclaimed independence in the ninth year of his reign (II Kings, 24 : 20) Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem once again and captured it in 588 BCE As a result of this, the Temple and the houses of aristocracy were burnt, the walls of the city were razed to the ground, and the Temple treasures were carried off. Almost all the inhabitants were taken into captivity and removed to Babylon (II Kings, 25 : 9-12).

Nebuchadnezzar was extremely cruel to the captives, both of Judah and Israel, who had, as a consequence of the defeat of Assyrians, become his prisoners and they feared and hated him. So much so that all wicked or cruel persons or rulers used to be called by them after his name.

We now enter into another chapter of Israelitish history. Cyrus, about whom Isaiah had prophesied (Isa, 44 : 28;45 : 1-14), captured Babylon in 539 BCE He subjected the entire Babylonian empire to his rule and "as for the sons of Babylon," Cyrus said in his tablet, "I delivered their prisoners." This happened in 536 BCE By their prisoners Cyrus undoubtedly meant the captives taken from Jerusalem, for Ezra tells us that "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, the King of Persia" (Ezra, 1 : 1) and he decreed the return of the "Jews to Jerusalem to build the house at Jerusalem which is in Judah'' (Ezra, 1 : 2; 5 : 13). Cyrus also returned for this purpose "the vessels of the house of the Lord which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from Jerusalem'' (Ezra, 5 : 14). Ezra gives details of all the families who returned at this time to Jerusalem with Zorobabel (Ezra, 2 : 2-57) and later on with him (Ezra, 8 : 2-14). If we scrutinise the names carefully, we find that all of them belonged to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

But contrary to the decree of Cyrus all the Jews "were not allowed to return (Ezra, 4 : 7-24) as it was feared that their so doing would depopulate his possessions'' (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, 13). This is also borne out by the fact that a further "return" became necessary of which Ezra himself was the leader. But even this was confined to a few families only.

The release of the Jews did not mean that they had become independent of the Persian Empire, for Judaea continued to be a part of the empire and the Governor of Judaea, though a Jew, was a nominee of the Persian kings.

Darius Hystaspis, the "King of Kings," the Dara Gustasp of Indian and Zend writings, is the next king in point of time. He ruled over a vast empire, extending from the Grecian Archipelago in the West to India in the East: in the North it extended to Bactria (Afghanistan); for he himself says:

"While I was in Babylon these provinces rebelled against me: Persia, Susiania, Media, Assyria, Armenia, Parthia, Margiana Sattagydia and Sakians" (Prof. Sayce, Herodotus, 389).

Darius invaded India and led a huge army for that purpose. The details of the invasion of Darius can be gathered from the writings of Herodotus and materially connected by Darius' own inscriptions discovered at Daghestan.

The Persian empire was broken up by the Bactrians, the Scythians and the Parthians. The Parthian empire extended from the Jhelum river in India over 1,500 miles to the west with a varying breadth from south to north of about 100 to 400 miles. Demetrius, the son of Euthydenos, conquered a considerable portion of Afghanistan and Northern India. He was known as the "King of the Indians."

I have striven in these pages of ancient history merely to show how the Ten Tribes became subjects-it would be more correct to say prisoners-of different kingdoms. Before I deal with their movements from country to country it would, I think, be proper to discuss the question whether these tribes ever returned to their "own land."

The return of the Ten Tribes is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. On the contrary, we are told:

"So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day" (II Kings, 17 : 23).

Zachariah speaking of Israel, in the fourth year of King Darius, said that God had scattered them among all the nations and that "no man had passed through or returned" to their own land (Zach., 7 : 14). It would, in fact, be correct to say that after this the Old Testament and the Western historians lose all traces of the Ten Tribes.

Sir Thomas Holditch, in The Gates of India, says:

"With the final overthrow of the Assyrian kingdom, we lose sight of the ten tribes of Israel who for more than a century had been mingled with the people of Mesopotamia and Armenia. At least history holds no record of their national existence" (Holditch, The Gates of India, 49).

Ignoring the vague speculations of some Western writers, the whereabouts of the Ten Tribes have always remained a mystery to them and has indeed baffled them. On the strength of a reference in the New Testament to "the twelve tribes" it has been suggested that some of the ten tribes had returned to Jerusalem with Zorobabel. But this is incorrect, for at a time when the question of "the return" could not even have been dreamt of, Hezekiah had sent letters "to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh that they could come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel'' (II Chron., 30 : 1). These letters were sent all over "Judah" and "Israel"-and not to Assyria-"to the remnants… that are escaped out of the hands of the King of Assyria'' (II Chron., 30 : 6). Thus the invitation was confined to such "remnants" of Judah and Israel as had been left behind by Tiglath-pileser and who had not been carried by him to Assyria, and not to the ten tribes in captivity. The reference in the New Testament must, therefore, be taken to mean such members of the Twelve Tribes as had been left behind.

There is, however, clear testimony in ancient records to support the fact that the Ten Tribes, properly so called, did not return from their captivity. I have already quoted passages from the Second Book of the Kings and from Zachariah to this effect. In the Second Book of Esdras, we read:

"And whereas thou sawest that he gathered another peaceable multitude unto him, those are the ten tribes which were carried away prisoner out of their own land in the time of Hosea, the King, whom Shalmanesar, the King of Assyria led away as captive, and he crossed them over the waters, as they came into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves that they would leave the multitude of the heathen and go forth into a farther country ... that they might raise up their statues which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into the Euphrates by the narrow passage of the river, for the Most High then showed signs for them, and held still the flood till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, even for a year and a half; and the same region is called Asareth" (2 Esdras, 13 : 36-39).

(The First and Second Book of Esdras were accepted by the Church as the "Word of God," and it was not until the Council of Trent (1546 AC) that they were rejected as uninspired.) 

This passage, no doubt, is Apocryphal, but it indicates what was believed by the Jews about the Ten Tribes at a very early period. This passage amounts, at least, to historical evidence of the fact that the Ten Tribes had not returned to their "own land," but rather had left their place of captivity for a place which to their minds was farther away from their own land, that is, further towards the East, and to a place called Asareth. I might mention here that in Tabagat-i-Nasiri it is stated: that in time of the Shansabi dynasty, a people called Bani Israel (Children of Israel) used to live in Asareth and were engaged in trade (Tabagai-i-Nasiri, 179). Thomas Ledlie in his book, More Ledlian, writing on the origin of Afghans, gives cogent reasons for connecting Asareth with Hazara District in the NW Frontier Province of Pakistan (Thomas Ledlie, More Ledlian, Calcutta Review, January 1898); and the territory of Kashmir adjoins that of Hazara. But the old boundary of Asret in Swat was just on the opposite bank of the Indus river and, higher up near Chilas, ran into Kashmir territory.

Josephus, who wrote in the reign of Vespasian, records a speech of King Agrippa to the Jews wherein he exhorted them to submit to the Romans and expostulated with them in the following terms:

"What! Do you stretch your hopes beyond the river Euphrates? Do any one of you think that your fellow-tribes will come to your aid out of Adiabene? Besides, if they would, the Parthians would not permit them" (Josephus, Antiq., 11 , 5 : 2).

We learn from this oration, delivered to the Jews themselves, and by a king of the Jews, that the Ten Tribes even at that time were captive beyond the Euphrates and under the Parthians. Josephus himself tells us that so late as his time (latter part of the 1st century of the Christian era) the Ten Tribes "were still beyond the Euphrates, an immense multitude and not to be estimated by numbers (Josephus, Antiq., 15, 2 : 2; Wars, 2 , 16 : 4). That these tribes had not returned even in the time of Jesus is evident from his various utterances. He spoke of them as "lost'' (Matt., 18 : 11), "the lost sheep of the house of Israel'' (Matt., 15 : 24), and "as the children of God that were scattered abroad'' (John, 11 : 52). He proclaimed that his mission was "to seek and save that which was lost'' (Luke, 19 : 10). James, brother of Jesus, addressed his Epistle "to the ten tribes which were scattered abroad'' (Jas., 1 : 1). He addressed the twelve tribes because all the descendants of Judah and Benjamin had not returned to Jerusalem.

It is, however, true that on a pledge to return, some very few of the captives used to be "granted leave of absence" and permitted to pay a visit for a limited time to Jerusalem. This was usually done on one of the feast days (Cf. Zach., 7 : 2-3). They were on these visits described and addressed according to the country from which they had come. This makes intelligent the following address of Peter to these visitors on the day of Pentecost:

"Parthians and Medes and Elamites (according to Prof. Sayce Elam was the Assyrian Accadian on the borders of South-East Persia), and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judaea., and Cappadocia (a province in the interior of Asia Minor), in Pontus (a province in the SE of Asia Minor), and in Asia… be this known unto you, and hearken to my words" (Acts. 2 : 9-14).

This passage clearly shows that the Ten Tribes were not even at that time residing in their own land, for people of Samaria were not mentioned by Peter, although he was addressing the Twelve Tribes.

St. Jerome, who wrote in the 5th century of the Christian era, while discussing the "Dispersion of Israel" in his notes on Hosea, said:

"Until this day the ten tribes are subjects to the kings of the Persians, nor has their captivity ever been loosened" (Tom. 6 : 7).

Again in another connection, he wrote:

"The ten tribes inhabit at this day the cities and mountains of the Medes" (Ibid., 6 : 80).

Dr. Alfred Edersheim, discussing in his book The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, the fate of the Ten Tribes, says:

"In general it is of the greatest importance to remember in regard to the Eastern Dispersion that only a minority of the Jews, consisting in all of about 50,000 originally returned from Babylon, first under Zorobabel and afterwards under Ezra (537 BCE and 459 BCE respectively). Nor was their inferiority confined to numbers only. The wealthiest and most influential of the Jews remained behind. According to Josephus, with whom Philo substantially agrees, vast numbers, estimated at millions, inhabited the Trans-Euphrates provinces" (Dr. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 8) ... "the great mass of the ten tribes was in the days of Christ, as in our own times, lost to the Hebrew nation" (Ibid., 16).

There can, therefore, be no question that the Ten Tribes did not return from their captivity to their own land. There is no room left for any shadow of doubt in the matter. Has anyone heard of any expedition of the Ten Tribes going forth independently from the country of their captivity to conquer other nations or countries? Has anyone even heard of their rising in insurrection to burst the bonds of their captivity? Has any mention ever been made of their release by their overlords? Ezekiel, no doubt, did prophesy that they would be brought out of the country of their captivity, but it was not towards the land of Israel, for, in the name of the Lord, he had said:

"I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn but they shall not enter into the land of Israel" (Ezek., 20: 38).

But to which country or countries were the Ten Tribes taken? To be able to answer this question satisfactorily, we have to retrace the various steps of history. From the Old Testament we learn that Tiglath-pileser had carried them away to "Halah and Habur and Hara, and to the river Gozan'' (1 Chron., 5 : 26). Sargon had done the same (2 Kings, 18 : 11). Halah, according to the researches of Layard and Rawlinson, was in upper Khabur and Habur was a river of that name in Kurdistan which fell into the Euphrates. But Ezekiel, who himself was a captive, spoke of the river Chabur (Khabur) (Ezek., 1 : 1). If Habur was in fact a river it could hardly have been properly described by reference to another river (Gozan). Rabbi Aba, the son of Kahana, appears to be more to the point when he says that Halah meant Helzon and Habur stood for Adiabene, the country mentioned by King Agrippa. George Moore mentions another Rabbinical tradition to the effect that the Ten Tribes passed over a river flowing through the land of Cush (George Moore, The Lost Ten Tribes, 148-150).

The journey of the Ten Tribes further east is inter-linked with the varying fortunes of the great empires which flourished in the East and with the wars which were waged by one against the other. In these early times one of the objectives of wars was the amassing of a great population for manual labour and the creation of new centres of civilisation and trade. From time immemorial it has been customary for the captives taken in war to be transported bodily to another field for purposes of colonisation. When the world was so scantily populated such methods were natural and effectual. The increasing working power, thus obtained, brought about improvement in the new countries which otherwise could not have been accomplished. Thus walled cities were constructed, canals were excavated and huge palaces and other edifices and monuments were built. All the mighty works of ancient Assyria, Babylon and India were literally "the works of man's hands," and the extent of these buildings and monuments must have demanded an immense supply of manual labour. Only conquering monarchs with whole nations as prisoners could have compassed such gigantic works whose remains we now see. This custom of forced labour continued from time to time. Thus it was that the people of Western Asia-Israelites, Jews, Phoenecians, and in their turn, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and even the Persians and the Grecians, were transported over vast distances by land, and a movement was given to the human races in that part of the world which has complicated the science of ethnology.

The peopling of Australia, New Zealand and America by the British, of Canada by the French, of Brazil by the Portuguese and of Argentina and Chile by the Spaniards and Italians is a modern and more comprehensive process in the distribution of humanity. They are of a more permanent character because they were, so to speak, voluntary emigrations. But ancient, compulsory movements were wholesale and they led to the distribution of people in places which would not ordinarily have invited them. Sometimes settlements for these captives were made in supercession of a displaced or annihilated people, sometimes they were forced on the possessors of the land as an ethnic variety to them. Again, as was done by Tiglath-pileser, new districts were created for the consolidation of the empire. The outlying provinces of the dominions were also considered as convenient and essential dumping places for such bodies of captives as were not required for public works elsewhere. A few who could fight joined the armies, others who were able-bodied followed the army.

In those days it was a matter of transporting the captives overland and on foot to the farthest limits of these great Asiatic empires. Thus they tramped away to the East or to the South, for nothing was known of the geography of the North or the West. Eastward also lay the land of the sun, whence Solomon was known to have brought to his court gold, silver, ivory, pheasants and peacocks, and from whence also came the mercenary Indian soldiers who had fought in the armies of Tiglath-Pileser, of Cyrus and of Darius.

Nothing could be more natural than that Tiglath-Pileser, who had effected conquests in Asia which had carried him as far as the very borders of India, or that Sargon or Nebuchadnezzar should have deported a portion of the Israelitish nation to colonise their Eastern possessions. Darius later employed the same process to the same ends when he deported Greeks from their Lybian Barke to Bactria. In building the vast Persian Empire a gradual fostering of Eastern Colonies set up an example to be followed by the succeeding kingdoms which one after the other held sway in Central or Western Asia. The Parthians ruled in India itself. Alexander, for example, transported people to Chitral in Northern Pakistan for similar reasons. They are a mixture of GrecoPersian stock and exist even today as Kafirs of Chitral and the Hindu-Kush (Sir George Scott Robertson, The Kafirs of Hindu-Kush, 237). George Moore tells us that the occupation by the Scythians, in fact, of the very provinces in which the Twelve Tribes dwelt, forced them further East (George Moore, The Lost Ten Tribes, 110). The great Wall of China was also the product of forced labour to prevent the Greeks and the Parthians, and in consequence their prisoners, the Israelites, from going any further.

But though the peopling of far-off lands in those days was necessarily a land process, yet the geographical features of the land determined the direction of the human tide. I have already mentioned that Tiglath-Pileser had, for twenty years before the fall of Samaria and the consequent deportation of the Ten Tribes of Israel, made conquests in Asia and had almost touched the very borders of India. Why he went no further, or why Darius returned soon after his entry into the Punjab, or why Alexander left the greater part of India unexplored can only be explained on natural grounds. The Indus valley would offer to military invaders from the West the first taste of the quality of the climate of the Indian plains. The Indus valley in the hot weather would possess little climatic attraction for Western highlanders. Again, the freezing cold in the winter months of the Himalayas, and the constant snow on "the roof of the world" would have been another deterrent for further progress. The Gobi desert would also prevent any further marches of the army. That is why the armies of Alexander refused to go much beyond the Indus or beyond India, and when forced to do so mutinied against him. He could not enter China and had to return disappointed. The great Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian conquerors before him must have encountered much the same difficulties. It is historically clear, however, that whereas the Assyrians and the Babylonians knew and trod the way to Afghanistan (or Bactria), Bokhara and Samarkand, the Persians, Greeks, Scythians and Parthians entered India. The Parthians even settled and ruled in Northern India. Darius and Alexander on their return went to Tibet and the borders of China. If we examine the map of Asia with a little care we shall see that there are no formidable barriers to the passing of large bodies of people from Nineveh to Herat (Afghanistan), or from Herat to India until we reach the Indus, or from the Indus valley through Hazara, Kashmir, and, in the summer months, on to Gilgit, Ladakh and Tibet itself.

The retreats of Darius and Alexander also gives us the clue to the general lines of communications in ancient days between Mesopotamia, Afghanistan (Bactria), India and Tibet. The invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni are comparatively recent affairs. But the centuries which have rolled by since the days of Tiglath-Pileser have done little to modify these lines of communication from the earliest times with which we come in contact through any human record. We find these high-roads being trodden by the feet of thousands and thousands of weary captives, soldiers and merchants, an intermittent tide of humanity, in numbers unknown to modern times, bringing Western Asia into touch with the East to an extent which we can hardly appreciate.

I have already quoted a passage from the Second Book of Esdras and have also referred to the prophecies of Ezekiel and Zacharias regarding the movements of Israelites away from their own country towards the East. I have mentioned that as a result of the Scythian invasion the Israelites were compelled to move further East. The Scythians, in fact, ruled over Afghanistan and India (J. H. Wheeler, History of India, 1239). What is more natural than that the Ten Tribes should have moved with their conquerors and rulers to the distant lands in the East and just stop further penetration beyond those places which, we know from history, their conquerors and rulers could not and did not cross? If this be true, we have a right to expect and find the Lost Ten Tribes in Afghanistan, Balkh, Bokhara, Khorasan, Kokand, Samarkand and Tibet and also in Western China and in India - NWFP (Pakistan) and Kashmir.

The remnants of Israel, of course, would still be found in Mesopotamia and in countries further West (The Ten Tribes, Where are They? "By One who has been among them." This pamphlet was published in 1893 by the Operative Jewish Convert Institute, London and is attributed to Rev. J. H. Bruhi). It is a most significant fact that whereas the Jews in Palestine, Arabia, Turkey, Mesopotamia and Persia style themselves as Yahoodi (Jews), those from Persia onwards call themselves Bani Israel (Children of Israel). Dr. Joseph Wolff, himself a Christian Jew, tells us that he came across Israelites in Persia, Kurdistan, Khurasan, Kokand, Bokhara and Samarkand. In Bokhara, he estimates, they were ten thousand in number. Regarding the Israelites of Bokhara and Khurasan he says:

"They were quite ignorant of his (Jesus') history and suffering and death, which also convinces me that the Jews of Khurasan and Bokhara are of the Ten Tribes, who never returned to Palestine after their Babylonian captivity" (Dr. Joseph Wolff, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the Years 1843-1845, 11).

Dr. Joseph Wolff states that the Israelites of Bokhara would not even listen to him until he had recited the Shema Yisrael, that is, the Cry of Israel: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord'' (Ibid., See also Deut., 6 : 4). He mentions that they call bitter vines: the Vines of Sodom, and also records:

"All the Jews of Turkistan assert that the Turkomanians are the descendants of Togarmat, one of the sons of Gomer" (Ibid., See also Gen., 10 : 3). 

Syed Abdul Jabbar Shah, the ex-Ruler of Swat, refers to a letter written by the Emir of Turkestan to Xerxes in which it was stated that some of the Ten Tribes were at that time living in his country (Syed Abdul Jabbar Shah, Mun'amene-i-Bani Israil or The Afghan Nation, f. 69).

Sir Thomas Holditch also found an Israelitish colony in Balkh, which he described as the Bessos of Darius (Sir Thomas Holditch, The Gates of India, 69).

Dr. Wolff mentions that among the Israelites of Bokhara there is a very old tradition that some of the ten tribes are also to be found in China (Dr. Joseph Wolff, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the Years 1843-1845, 11). If we turn to China we find that the Israelites of K'ai-Fung Fu claim their entry through India (Rev. J. H. Lord, The Jews in India and the Far East, 23). Francis Bernier, writing in 1664, mentioned that certain Jesuit Fathers of his time had come across Israelites in China and Tibet (Francis Bernier, Journey to Kashmir, the Paradise of the Indians, 171). Hue and Gabet give a very vivid description of the customs and habits of these forlorn and forsaken Israelites who hardly then knew their prayers in Hebrew (Hue and Gabet, Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China, 105). Meer Izzutoollah, who had been British Resident for years in these countries, records that the Tibetan Jews assert that their original scriptures were in a language which had become unintelligible to them (Meer Izzutoollah, Travels in Central Asia, 14). In India itself we have Bani Israel in Bombay and on the Malabar coast.

I have so far just stated a few facts, recorded by different travellers regarding the dispersed Israelites. I am really more concerned with the Bani Israel of Afghanistan and Kashmir. I will, therefore, deal separately and at some length with the origin, descent, habits and customs of the inhabitants of these two countries.

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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 20: Lost Ten Tribes of Israel

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