Welcome to Bible Tribes

Ever wondered what happened to the Lost Tribes of ancient Israel?

Did you even know they were lost?

The Problem

The Book of Genesis tells the story of a family line that begins with Adam. After many generations from Adam, Genesis slows down when it gets to Abraham. Abraham is eventually called the father of the faithful. Abraham is also given a series of promises that flow through to Abraham's sons.

Genesis ends with Abraham's promises being passed on to each of Jacob's sons. Those promises become unique, and distinct, and for 1 of those sons, Joseph, the promise is he will someday become a community of nations all by himself. The rest of Jacob's sons thus also one day become nations all on their own.

The history of those sons is recorded through Egypt, and then across the wilderness into the promised land of ancient Canaan. At this point they are a community of loosely aligned tribes. For over 400 years they will remain in Canaan as loosely affiliated tribes.

At the time of King Saul, King David and King Solomon, those tribes are joined together by force, and become the center of an ancient empire that extended from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates River. This was their ancient high point, with the resources available for large building projects. The best known such project is the Temple of Solomon.

After Solomon's death, the tribes split up again, at first forming 2 distinct nations, known as Israel in the north, and Judah in the south.

The tribes regularly went to war with each other, generally fighting over the remnants of Solomon's empire, including the tribute extracted from conquered neighbors. Because of national sin, caused by Solomon himself, and because they were no longer unified, they were unable to defend themselves from their neighbors, becoming subject to invasion.

Eventually, in the time of King Hezekiah, the neighboring Assyrians invaded. The war lasted 3 years, and at the end the Assyrians had hauled away all of the ancient tribes. Only a small remnant was left inside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem.

There is dispute over who was hauled away, but a careful read of the account shows that all of the tribes are gone from Canaan at this point, and only the refugees who remained inside Jerusalem's wall survived and later inhabited the land of Canaan. This was far fewer people than made up even 1 tribe before the Assyrian invasion. Maybe as few as 25,000 people.

That Jerusalem remnant had members from the tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi. They chose to adopt the national name Israel, even though the northern kingdom of Israel had been totally removed. They would adopt the name of the tribe of Judah as their religious name, that remnant eventually becoming the ancestors of the people known today as Jews.

The problem of the Lost Tribes is simple to state, even if it is very hard to solve. What happened to the people who either fled ahead of the Assyrian invasion, or were hauled away by the Assyrians? Stated differently, where, today, are the tribes that grew up from Jacob's sons?

Ad Hoc Solutions

There are quite a few partial answers to this problem, many of which depend on re-definitions of the problem. The first round of ad hoc solutions center on fighting over Abraham himself.

The widest answer, found in the Arab world, is that Jacob himself was not the proper holder of Abraham's blessings, and so there is no reason to even look for the Lost Tribes in the world today. This is a possible answer, but one we disagree with.

A similar answer involves the modern Jews who first claim that Abraham was Jewish. The Jews, though, do not begin to form until after the Assyrian invasion, which is over 1000 years from Abraham. In this line of reasoning, since Abraham is the father of the Jews, the Jews of today must be all of the ancient Lost Tribes.

The idea that the Jews are the lost tribes, in total, fails for 2 reasons. The first failure involves the promise to Joseph, who himself was to become a community of nations. The Jews of today became a single nation in 1948, and though disbursed, are not a community of nations themselves.

The second failure involves a promise made to King David, who was to always have an unbroken chain of descendents ruling over at least a remnant of the Lost Tribes of ancient Israel. Up until 1948 there was no Jewish nation, so there was no possible fulfillment of this promise within that people group.

Read on, and I will eventually show how to properly identify the Jews, a particularly difficult riddle, because they adopt another tribe's name.

Tribal Solutions

I was first introduced to the problem of the Lost Tribes by an American TV preacher in the late 1970s who offered a book that spelled out his reasons why he thought the United States was the Lost Tribe of Manasseh. The same book suggested that the United Kingdom was the Lost Tribe of Ephraim.

That preachers' Tribal identities will turn out to be correct in the end, but it was based on a strategy that was itself Ad Hoc. His logic explored the various aspects of promises to Ephraim and Manasseh given in the Book of Genesis, and then deduced that the only nations on earth that matched those promises are the modern United States and the modern United Kingdom.

The most obvious example, that I often use when introducing this problem, is to note that the Tribe of Manasseh had land on both sides of the Jordan River. The only modern nation so divided is the United States, with roughly 40 percent of its territory across the Pacific, in what we normally call Alaska. This alone is enough to make the identification, but it is not fully satisfying, since it is such a small data point.

As I was working on this problem, I also discovered from conversations with individuals that other modern nations have people who have used similar logic to identify their own nations in similar ways. There are Russians, for example, that know their ancient Lost Tribe identity. That identity is so shocking you'll need to read on before you learn the answer.

These identifications tend to not be well known, but as needed the Holy Spirit has used this strategy with people around the world when they needed to know.

My Solution

As I was working on the software tooling for the Bible Time project I started to look at all numbers given in the Bible as references to time.

The first evidence that supports this view was an observation that the census counts given when the ancient Israelites left Egypt were also references to calendar time, spreading out over thousands of years.

I then began to look at other scripture references that included large counts and stumbled upon a reference in the Book of Revelation. This is such an important passage that I've reproduced it here.

4And I heard the number of those who were sealed, and it was 144,000 of all the tribes of the sons of Israel. 5Of the tribe of Judah were sealed 12,000, of the tribe of Reuben 12,000, of the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6of the tribe of Asher 12,000, of the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, of the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7of the tribe of Simeon 12,000, of the tribe of Levi 12,000, of the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8of the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, of the tribe of Joseph 12,000, of the tribe of Benjamin 12,000. Revelation 7:4-8

Note that this is giving nearly all the Tribe names, in order, and it is also giving a large count. This is also the only place where the tribal names are ordered this way, which is itself important.

I looked at those counts, 12,000 for each tribe, and realized that using time as a filter, no matter what else they may be, those counts must also be 12,000 days.

The text ahead of this quote suggests that each tribe is "being sealed" at these dates. "Sealing" is what is done to documents when they are legal and official. Typically some wax is melted onto the parchment and then imprinted with that nation's seal

2 Tribe names are not given in this Revelation passage. First, the Tribe of Dan is missing, second Joseph is used while Ephraim is also missing. Any correct understanding of this passage will explain those 2 quirks, hopefully identifying them even though they are not explicitly listed.

Realizing these were day counts, meant that this must be a riddle for finding all the tribes. Find the documents, signed 12,000 days apart, and the modern nation signing that document becomes identified as a Lost Tribe.

I call this strategy the "Seal Date Strategy" for finding the Lost Tribes of Ancient Israel.

Seal Date Math

Census counts usually run at the rate of 1 person per day and these lists of 12,000 echo the census counts of the Exodus which also clock off history at 1 person per day.

At 12,000 days per tribe the entire schedule runs across a little less than 400 total years.

This passage in Revelation is curious because 2 tribes are left off the list. Dan and Ephraim are both missing. Why?

The Tribe of Ephraim was a part of the Tribe of Joseph and Joseph was not a landed tribe there being no inheritance for Joseph since his inheritance was split between his 2 sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Joseph is listed, but it represents the 2 sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. The document that is marked by this seal should thus be a treaty between Ephraim and Manasseh, while Manasseh still has his own separate seal date. This makes sense since Manasseh is the double portion holder of Abraham's covenant promises. He has 2 seal dates in keeping with that covenant promise.

Dan is harder to explain, but the answer to his omission comes directly from the problem of measuring this schedule from a departure point. The origin, if you will, is the Mosaic Covenant, or the law and Dan means judge or the one who carries the law. His natural seal date is at the start of the 12,000 days that end with the first name on the list, or Judah.

Of course this is not a proof, the document and nation will need to be confirmed with further details, or signs, that apply uniquely to that nation as per that tribe's story in the Bible.

The Dates

It took some fiddling to find the list of dates. The TV preacher who identified the United States as Manasseh and the United Kingdom as Ephraim provided an important starting point.

By knowing those 2 Tribes, the following table was calibrated against those nations, at least initially. It shows the tribe, the date and the modern nation that signed a document at that date.

Day Tribe Date Modern Nation
1 Dan 6 Oct 1579 OS Netherlands
12,001 Judah 13 Aug 1612 OS Russia
24,001 Reuben 21 Jun 1645 OS Sweden
36,001 Gad 29 Apr 1678 OS Spain
48,001 Asher 7 Mar 1710 OS Austria
60,001 Naphtali 13 Jan 1743 OS Germany
72,001 Manasseh 1 Dec 1776 NS United States
84,001 Simeon 10 Oct 1809 NS France
96,001 Levi 18 Aug 1842 NS Switzerland
108,001 Issachar 26 Jun 1875 NS Serbia
120,001 Zebulun 4 May 1908 NS Greece
132,001 Joseph 12 Mar 1941 NS US/UK
144,001 Benjamin 18 Jan 1974 NS Israel

Read More

There are 12 more long pages in this website, 1 page for each tribe.

You can read about each tribe, their modern nation, and maybe a few Ad Hoc details about each tribe.


On touch devices you can swipe left/right to move to other articles. On mouse devices use the arrows at the top. There is also a menu in the center of the top to go to each tribe.


Phil Stone, Updated 2016-11-09