The migration of the ten ‘lost’ tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel has been a mysterious one. Numerous Bible scholars have at various times identified all the different races as the lost tribes. Among these, the most popular are the Aryan (Caucasian) and the Western hemisphere (Americas) camps. All groups base their conclusions on prophecy interpretation or the speculative geographical identification of Arsareth as home of the tribes. In this post, I show that the Bible identifies Arsareth to be neither in Europe or North America. An examination of the tribes migration according to 2 Esdras 13:40-46 supports only land emigration westwards through Arabia. I also highlight some features and links that indicate that the tribes still maintain their culture till this day in their new homeland.
In my previous post on the lost tribes of Israel, I focused on a passage in the Apocryphal book of Esdras that has recently been gaining popularity. Let us take another look at it to identify Arsareth.
Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow places of the river. For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. Then dwelt they there until the latter time; and now when they shall begin to come. – 2 Esdras 13:40-46.
This dispersion is also described in Deuteronomy 29:28.
In this discussion, I will express my thoughts on the region called Arsareth and explain why I do not think it is where most think it is.
Basic steps to a new home
Firstly, I will like to highlight some basics about this journey.
- They were going to a new country where they had never lived before.
- That new country did not have established kingdoms in it.
- They would be free to hold true to their culture and under no compulsion to worship other gods.
- They had to cross Euphrates at the narrow part to get there.
- God showed them signs and held back the waters to lead them through, because it was far.
- The region they passed through is called Arsareth, the place they relocated to is not.
- They will remain there until the last days and remain a homogeneous people.
Let us now look at these points briefly.
A new country
The Hebrews had lived in several places already at this time. Wherever they lived, the heathen had always been problematic for their faith. So they decided to go somewhere else. That in my opinion ruled out Egypt, Mesopotamia, Lebanon and Palestine. It most likely also ruled out Turkey and Greece with whom they had extensive trade and communications since the days of Kings David and Solomon. They had to either go eastwards beyond Persia, or Westward beyond Egypt.
No Established kingdom there
Looking at a time map of the world, we notice that as at 1000BC, every continent on the planet had some inhabitants resident at the least. This includes North America contrary to what some people believe. I think the phrase where no mankind dwelt means that there was no established society or culture there since there were nomads/hunters in most places even back then. So, a look at the established cultures might give an indication of where this land is. Let us take a look at the Middle East map before and just at about the time the tribes left Assyria.
About 1000 BC, just before the ten tribes were exiled into Assyria, we see several warring kingdoms fighting for supremacy in the region. To the east of Assyria are the Medes, Persians, Parthians, Aryans (spreading in India) and the emerging Chinese/Korean tribes. Northwards are the Phrygians and the Celts that already dominated in Europe prior to the rise of the Greeks. To the west is Arabia with its nomadic tribes and the already declining Egypt; the only established civilization in Africa. There were no known kingdoms west of Egypt at the time.
Soon after the Hebrew tribes had been exiled to Assyria however, the landscape begins to change. We see the rise of the Persian Empire; which now covers most of the Middle East.
India with its city-states is east of this empire, and beyond the mountains are the warring Chinese states. To the north, the Greeks are now a major force in Europe. To the west, Africa and Arabia are still predominantly made up of scattered nomads and hunters.
By merely looking at the maps, the only vacant pieces of land close by in the region appeared to be in Arabia or Africa. Central Asia seemed vacant as well, but the tribes would have to fight their way through warring tribes to get there. Northwards, Europe was already populated and war was already a regular feature of the continent. It was unlikely that a brand new population would relocate there.
Hold true to their faith and culture
The reason for seeking a new country was to be faithful to their God and true to their culture. While living in Israel with the surrounding nations, the people were regularly oppressed and forced to live the Canaanite lifestyle. In this new country, they would be free to practice circumcision and they would not be forced to accept the sexual perversions of the heathen nations. Among them, homosexuality, incest, bestiality and infanticide in the name of Molech would become taboo again. Genetically, they would not intermarry with the heathen because God forbade them to, making them genetically homogeneous.
If Europeans and Native Americans are the lost tribes, how come they do not keep even the most basic practice of the covenant; circumcision? Compare them to the so called Africans here who maintain this as well as many other Hebrew customs. Remember, the tribes left so that they could keep their customs unmolested by the rest of the world.
They crossed the Euphrates at the narrow passages
The Euphrates and the Tigris are the main rivers in Mesopotamia with the Tigris extending into Assyria. The currents were very strong but at the southern part, the river became narrower and more navigable. It is for that reason that the major Mesopotamian cities like Babylon were built in the southern end of the river. It is also at this end that the Medes and Persians crossed when they invaded Babylon.
I have come across articles that claim that the tribes crossed the Euphrates at the Northern end into Turkey. The Hebrews in my opinion would have crossed the river near Babylon. We can also see this when Nehemiah travels from Susa (in Persia) to Jerusalem crossing the Euphrates at that point.
A look at a map of the Euphrates will further indicate that since they did not cross the Tigris, they must have been heading westward towards Arabia and not eastward into Persia. I will state as in my previous post that the tribes were already in Assyria (east of the Euphrates). Crossing the river would take them westwards.
The Most High THEN showed signs and held back the flood.
At first sight, I am tempted to think that God showed them a sign by holding back the Euphrates for the people to cross. But when I meditate on this, I realize that people had been crossing the Euphrates before without needing a miracle. If God were going to perform a miracle at the Euphrates, He wouldn’t have bothered to take them to the narrow passages.
The story in Esdras says that they crossed and the most High THEN shows a sign. This reminds me very much of the Exodus from Egypt. The Cloud and the Pillar of fire did not appear to the Hebrews until they had stepped out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness to the Red sea where God parted the waters. Here in circa 722BC, I believe that God waited for the tribes to step over the Euphrates in faith, then He was able to lead them to the flood that He held back.
I believe that flood was the very same Red sea (as in the exodus), but this time at its southern end between Arabia and the horn of Africa. We’ll see more of that later. This part of the text is talking about passing through and over the country region called Arsareth (not Euphrates).
They passed through Arsareth (Azareth) to the land.
The location of Arsareth is not clearly stated; hence numerous groups have named different places by that name over the years. The first time Arsareth appears in maps is in the 1900s maps and places it deep in Eastern Europe. The basis of this is because of a river called Siret or sereth, which the tribes were claimed to have crossed. This would place the 10 tribes in Northeast Europe close to Kazaria.
Another group claims Arsareth is America and calls the native Americans Hebrews. The problem with this theory is that the tribes passed through the Arsareth region, not live in it. If Arsareth is America, then the tribes must be living in the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean.
No Nation migrates its entire population by ships on an ocean
The reason I do not agree with these two main options above is that the tribes would need ships to get to America within 18 months. This is impracticable for 722 BC sea navigation and doubtful if an entire nation could survive that long on the ocean. It could take just a single sea storm to wipe out the entire bloodline. Only a very foolish leader would embark on such a dangerous journey. It’s even more ridiculous since the destination was supposedly unknown. Even if they did survive storms, they must have needed a lot of storage to feed so many people traveling for so long.
My argument against the Sereth river proponents is that there are other places whose name is closer to Asareth than Sereth is. For example, Maserath also known as Beni Jaakon (Jasher 85:3) and Hazeroth (Jasher 83:30, Numbers 11:35, 12:1, 12:16, 33:18 and Deuteronomy 1:1) are closer choices.
Hazeroth is identified as in the wilderness of Paran. See the map below. These places lie between Edom and Moab territories close to the Dead Sea and sits on the border with Palestine. Remember, Arsareth is a region through which the tribes passed, not a city and this could very well be the location.
Arsareth is Neither America nor Europe; It’s in Arabia
How can I prove this? Well, there is a very important city mentioned in the New Testament that was never mentioned in the Old; Nazareth (rings a bell?). It was the birthplace of the messiah that we read about in the New Testament. If there was any place whose name sounded like Arsareth, it would be Nazareth. But why doesn’t anyone mention this? I guess it doesn’t suit the narrative of the Hebrews in either Northern Europe or North America. Those places are in the opposite direction.
It would make sense that the tribes would cross the Euphrates and ahead of them would be the Arsareth region.
The Tribes had seen the vacant land before
Personally, a question I’ve had is this: How did the tribes know that there was a vacant lot anywhere? Was it from travelers, or had members of the tribe been there in person? If it was just rumors, I doubt any leader would take their entire people on a long dangerous migration chasing of an illusion. Odds were they had witnesses who had confirmed the existence of such uninhabited lands. From the analysis above, they knew about it because they had seen it on the way to Jericho at the previous exodus and knew it was uninhabited. We get a confirmation of this in Jeremiah 2:6; It was a land of drought, where no man passed through or dwelt. It was the region on the western border of Arabia, on their way to the promised land from Egypt.
Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? – Jeremiah 2:6
Perhaps, Nazareth is the signpost that God used to mark the direction His people were dispersed to. Incidentally, Nazareth comes from Nazar; which could mean separate or consecrate. Compare with Arsareth, which means another (separate?) land.
They left the heathen behind
They would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country
It is important to note that the Bible identifies the heathen as the gentiles. These people lived north and Northeast of Arabia. If the ten tribes had headed towards Europe, they would have been heading into the heathen lands not from it. Crossing the Euphrates in the direction of Arsareth (Nazareth) as described above would place the heathen behind them.
Most of Arabia was rough and impassable territory, so they would not have crossed through the desert. Rather than Go back into Israel, they would turn southwards putting Israel, Moab and Edom also behind them and travel parallel to the Red sea. They would travel till they reached the narrower southern end of it where God holds back the flood till they crossed over. They would have crossed from what is Yemen today into the horn of Africa (later known as Abyssinia).
I know there are those who would consider this analysis as outrageous and unrealistic. I will however request that you compare this to the Lemba tribe’s historical account of their migration from the Middle East to Yemen and then NE Africa; it is identical. The Lemba tribe is now identified as part of the ‘lost’ 10 tribes.
They will remain there till the last days
In the days of the first century historian Josephus, it was widely believed that the 10 tribes were still in exile and remained in another land in very large numbers. The location of that land was perhaps known back then, but the records vanished over time. I therefore looked at old maps to see if there were records of Hebrews anywhere outside the Middle East.
There is an 18th century map that shows the kingdom of Juda in West Africa where the transatlantic slave trade took place. I came across an even more shocking old map of Africa showing numerous Hebrew cities all over Africa and Yemen (see map below). Unfortunately, there is no dating on the map to tell when it was drawn. Based on the appearance of the Dahomey and Ashanti Empires on the map however, I will date it between 1701 and 1894.
The tribes passed through Arsareth into Africa
The map above in my opinion confirms the direction of the migrating ten Hebrew tribes into Africa.
Africa, it turns out is the second largest continent with 20.3% of the global land mass. It is as large as the five most populated countries China, India, continental USA, Brazil and Indonesia combined but only a third of their population. Even today (2016), with over 1.2 billion people, it is still less densely populated than any of those countries.
In this new land, the Hebrews can keep their faith and form of worship in peace (as seen in the Lemba). They can live far from the Canaanite lifestyle and abominable practices. They will remain genetically homogeneous till the end, and anyone who cares to look at them without bias will see that they all bear the mark of the Hebrew.
To return to the beginning of the series on Israel go to the-not-so-lost-trbes-of-israel