The end came during the reign of Hoshea, the twentieth ruler, who came to the throne in 732 BC. Ironically, although he was evil, he hadn’t sunk to the depths of some of his predecessors. Yet it was he who had to bear the full brunt of God’s judgement. One day the Assyrians invaded, angry that Israel had made friends with Egypt, their bitter enemy. They imprisoned Hoshea and laid siege to the land. After three years (they were patient) the siege was over and the Israelites deported en masse to various locations in the Assyrian Empire.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was no more and the people largely vanish into obscurity, kept alive by a multitude of myths about the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’. This is a pointless exercise, in the same vein as musing over the whereabouts of Atlantis or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If God wants a people ‘lost’, then that’s it, they’re LOST. The Northern Kingdom simply went the way of the multitude of peoples, like the Canaanites, Philistines and Moabites, who served their purpose in His plans, but then disappear from the pages of history.
This is not to say that the ten tribes were totally lost, only those who were living in the Northern Kingdom at the time of the exile. Many had left earlier. Some remained in the Southern Kingdom when the kingdoms first split (1 Kings 12:17). Some returned there a few years after the split (2 Chronicles 11:14-17). Others returned at various points, appalled at the growing apostasy of the Northern Kingdom. You can read about these in 2 Chronicles 15:9 and 2 Chronicles 30:25-26. The point I wish to make is that, although Jews are descended from the folk of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, it is safe to say that all tribes were represented among these people, not just Judah and Benjamin.
Deportation was a common fate for all who opposed the Assyrians. It was their way of discouraging revolt. The people deported first were the natural leaders, potential troublemakers. The deportation of the Israelites was fairly thorough and the area left behind became predominantly Gentile, though some Israelite land-workers remained. The northern part of this area was eventually to be renamed ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’. The southern part, the area of Samaria, was to be resettled by other displaced folk, carted in from the far reaches of the Assyrian Empire. These were to eventually become the mixed-race Samaritans of Jesus’s day.
Why the mass deportation? Was it really through the sin of King Jeroboam and his successors? The answer is given in 2 Kings 17. Verse 7 says: ‘All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, Who had brought them out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt’. God’s anger burned against both these evil rulers and their subjects, for following the detestable practices of the other nations and ignoring the pleadings of prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea, sent to warn them.
The whole sorry ‘Israel’ episode is summarised in 2 Kings 17:21, when God reminds us how it started and why it finished; how He tore Israel away from the House of David, because of the sins of Solomon; how He gave this new Kingdom to Jeroboam, promising him either blessings or curses, depending on his conduct; how Jeroboam’s sin was even worse than Solomon’s, bringing curses down upon himself and his family; how every subsequent King followed in his idolatry and unbelief, culminating in the destruction and exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book Outcast Nation)