Throughout the last many centuries since the decimation of Israel in 70 AD, many people groups have claimed to be the lost tribes of Israel. This includes Africans, Asians, and Europeans. Some have even claimed that Native American Indians were the lost tribes of Israel.
While this article is not intended to be a scholastic dissertation refuting any such claims, I will make several assertions that lead me to believe that many, if not all, of these claims are completely false. Who knows what really happened to Ancient Israel; but most likely, a large number of them did not make it to modern times.
When Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt through the power of God which came to him at the burning bush, it is estimated that 2 to 3 million Israelites followed him across the Red Sea. However, around 1200 years later around the time of Christ, it is again estimated that there were not more than several million Israelites. This discrepancy is likely caused by a great many deaths during Israel’s repeated disobedience and subsequent captivity with great world powers such as the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
It was Israel’s fault for these captivities, because surely, God could have saved them if He wanted to. The Bible points to God being the one who ultimately caused Israel to fall and become enslaved and invaded so many times during this millennium.
Again, Israel was invaded in their own land through the rule of the Romans around 63 BCE; and again this was punishment by God for their disobedience. Ultimately, the total destruction of the nation of Israel in 70 AD when the Romans invaded and destroyed the temple and drove them out from their land, was due to their disobedience and hardheartedness toward God in rejecting God’s Son, Jesus (Yehoshua, literally Joshua) the Christ.
After that, there may have been some time where the remaining people maintained their culture; but eventually, without a land or home, the remaining people blended in living among other cultures, and the true origins of the tribes of Israel were lost. Since then, many people groups have laid claim to this heritage, but almost certainly all are false. Using simple observation and logic along with Biblical lineages, the truth about who the descended Hebrews are – or rather, who are not Hebrew descendants – can be clearly seen.
While this article could easily go on for books to describe refutations of various people groups, that is not the intention of this article. Rather, this article will merely point out the obvious along with scripture to describe who is almost certainly not genetic descendants of the Hebrews.
As a person of European ethnicity myself, it would certainly boost my ego to believe that somehow I am a direct biological descendant of God’s people, the Hebrews. However, as a Christian, a scholar, and a seeker of truth, I cannot with an honest heart accept such a belief, as I believe it to be untrue. Moreover, as we will see shortly, biological heritage is not the determining factor in acceptance in to the family of God, according to the Bible.
Genetic Homogeneity (Sameness) Through The Ages
The first and most compelling evidence that Europeans – or most other people groups, for that matter – are not genetic descendants of the ancient Hebrews, is mere appearance. In only the last couple decades have radical liberal groups pushed their views of miscegenation on the world, especially the West. For the rest of human history, miscegenation (race-mixing) was frowned upon, even with the punishment of death.
While most people even today are still against or at least avoid miscegenation, whether or not they admit it; the truth is that for nearly all of human history, it was very rarely practiced. This is not to express any views of miscegenation, as that would get us off-topic; you need only to recognize that for nearly all of human history, ethic groups have remained more or less pure and homogeneous lineages of their respected ancestral ethnicities.
That is to say, Asians have remained genetically Asian, Africans have remained genetically African, Europeans have remained genetically European, and so on and so forth. As a result, it is safe to make some general assumptions – notably, that the general genetic traits of people groups remained somewhat similar over the several millennia of the history of the world.
Second, we need to look at the lineages of humanity since the flood. After the flood, only 8 people existed on Earth, and this included Noah and his surviving family. These people were: Noah, his wife, and his 3 sons and their 3 wives, for a total of 8. Noah’s 3 sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
As far as we know, and according to Biblical lineages, all of humanity today ultimately descended from these 8 people, and it can likely be narrowed down to simply Shem, Ham and Japheth. This means that all of humanity today can trace their roots back to these three people, the 3 sons of Noah.
Personally, I have done a lot of research on the ethnic origins of humanity. We will not get into all of that here, but a couple of things are rather certain.
Semitic People: Middle-Eastern
First, all the Semitic peoples descended from Shem, most of whome reside in the middle-east today. This includes the ancient Israelites (Hebrews) who descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the modern-day Arabs (mostly Muslim), who descended from Abraham and subsequently Ishmael, as a result of Abraham’s disobedience with the slave girl. Other descendants of Shem include the ancient Assyrians through Asshur (not to be confused with modern-day Syria), the Lydians through Lud, and Edomites through Esau.
Semitic people, descendants of Shem
Japhetic People: Europeans
Second, all Caucasian Europeans directly descended from Japheth. We have a clear lineage of the various European ethnicities and countries today which descended from this line. Japheth had 7 sons, of which all Europeans descended from: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. Gomer had 3 sons, Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
The other sons of Japheth also had sons from which other European nations were descended, but do note Ashkenaz, son of Gomer, son of Japheth. This is why today’s Ashkenazi Jews, who make up more than 90% of modern Jewish people, look European – they are descendants of Japheth, which makes them European (and not Semitic or descendants of Abraham). Books have been written about this, so I won’t go into great detail about this. Ashkenazi Jews of today deny this claim, but we will just leave it at the facts and not try to argue this.
Japhetic people, descendants of Japheth
Hamitic People: Africans and Asians
Third, we have the descendants of Ham. Ham was cursed because he looked on his father’s nakedness (Noah), an evil act for which Ham and his descendants were cursed in Genesis 9:25. This is probably why many of the descendants of Ham turned out to be evil nations like the Philistines. Please note that surely, not all Hamites are evil, and not all Shemites are holy. We know that God made all people with the power to choose, so let’s not get into that debate now.
Ham had 5 sons: Cush, Nimrod (who built the Tower of Babel), Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. Among the descendants of Cush include the Ethiopians and Arabians; Nimrod begat the Babylonians and Ninevites (see the book of Jonah – Jonah was sent to preach to the Ninevites and they listened and turned from their evil ways and back to God). Mizraim likely sired the modern Egyptians (not to be confused with the ancient Egyptians who may have been a different people), as well as the Philistines and Cretians (from Crete). The Libyans came from Phut (not to be confused with the Lydians of Shem), and the Cannanites came from Caanan, which includes the Hittites, Phoenicians, and Chinese (Sinites).
Hamitic people, descendants of Ham
Please note this is not a comprehensive list. Complete lists of the lineage of the nations can be found through some research. Here we are only looking at a brief overview for some context.
Now that we have some general context, let us note a couple of factors. Firstly, Europeans all had a common lineage, Japheth. They settled in the north in Europe and Russia, and this common lineage is why all Europeans have some distinct genetic similarities. Africans and Asians descended from Ham, which is why Africans have similar genetic traits and why Asians have general similarities. Of course, every human is an individual and each is unique; here we are only referring to general commonalities. For example, Africans have darker skin. Chinese have unique genetic features as well.
Chinese people, descendants of Ham
Lastly, we have the Semitic peoples. While we aren’t fully sure today who the Israelites are since the country was scattered, we do know the general lineage. We know that relatives of the Israelites by way of Shem and Abraham are the Arabs. As a result, we can have at least a general idea of what the Israelites would look like today – and also who they likely would not look like.
Easy Visual Comparison
If you go to the middle east as take a look around, you will notice, just like you would if you went to other generally homogenous countries like China, Nigeria, or Russia, that there are some genetic similarities among the people. The Arabic people typically have light or slightly tanned skin, and some general facial similarities. That is to say, you can generally tell right away whether someone is of African heritage or Arabic heritage just by looking at them.
Now look at Europeans. Surely, different ethic Europeans vary, such as the difference between Italians, Celts, and Norwegians. However, each is still quite distinct from the Arabic people. You can quite easily extrapolate a likelihood that a people group could come from the same genetic ancestry. It may be tough to see the difference between, say, some ethnic Germans or English, both being dressed the same and same hairstyle; or between some Norwegians or Danish, which also share some commonalities. However, it can be rather easy to distinguish between a truly ethnic Arab and a Norwegian or Italian, for example.
Guess which is Arabic and which is Norwegian?
Even if you ignore the turban, it is obvious.
As much as it is not politically correct to use racial profiling, the truth is that certain people groups can be quite clearly distinguished by their physical appearance. You would never mistake a native Somalian of Africa for a Chinese or Vietnamese person for example. To say otherwise is to simply lie. There are obvious physical characteristics of general people groups.
It is for this reason primarily that the whole debate of Europeans – or for that matter, Japanese or Africans – to claim to be the “true Hebrews”. As we can clearly see, all Europeans descended from Japheth; and Africans and Asians descended from Ham. Arabs, on the other hand, descended from Shem, as did the ancient Israelites.
Just like Europeans are clearly and distinctly European (Japhetic, from Japheth) despite the various local ethnicities, and Africans are clearly and visibly Hamitic (from Ham); likewise, Arabic people are distinctly Semitic. because we know what the Arabic people look like as Semitic people, we can very easily tell which people are not Semitic, even if we cannot be entirely sure which people are the true “lost tribes of Israel”.
Some known Ashkenazi people. Distinct, yet distinctly European.
One such implication is that we know that over 90% of the people claiming to be “Jews” today, are not really descendants of Abraham, and thus Shem. They are actually descendants of Magog, and thus Japheth. This is why they are very clearly European in appearance. Studies have actually been done to determine that Ashkenazi Jews do not have any Semitic blood.
Likewise, the same holds true for the other European nations. We know that the countries of Europe and the ethnicities within are not the lost tribes of Israel, because, frankly, they are very clearly European, and thus Japhetic, in origin. Europeans are not descendants of Shem, ad thus are not descendants of Abraham, so the Europeans cannot be the lost tribes of Israel, and this includes the Ashkenazis.
On the other hand, we do have a people group today who claims to be Jewish but whom do hold genetic resemblance to Semitic people – that is, the Arabs who we know are Semitic. While these Jews are only around 10% of the total population of people claiming to be Jewish today (the other 90% whom are Ashkenazi, and thus European), it is plausible that this 10% is indeed part of the original ethnic Jewish people.
An unlikely theory. Europeans certainly do not look Semitic.
Where are the rest? This is unknown; they may have been largely killed during Roman occupation as punishment by God; or perhaps they largely died off due to various factors including disease. Perhaps the Bubonic plague (black death) of the middle ages played a role, or other diseases. Perhaps they mixed with other people groups and diluted their heritage so they are no longer distinguishable. Perhaps they still exist but are spread far and thin. Perhaps some still live in the middle east.
Where the lost tribes of Israel are or what happened to them is a great mystery. But what we do know is who they are most likely not. They are most likely not any ethnicity which hold defining European genetic traits, or defining Asian genetic traits, or defining African genetic traits. It is unlikely to be various countries in Europe. or the Japanese, or the Nigerians, as much as each of these people groups would be prideful to think so.
Why does this matter? Well, it does not matter a whole lot, except as a matter of scholastic knowledge, and to prevent people from having false notions of their heritage. Moreover, I believe it would probably bring a false pridefulness to people who falsely believed they were direct biological descendents of the Hebrews.
More importantly, however, is that I believe that this false view as being somehow directly descended from ancient Israel could take away from the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter is that God said in the Bible that anyone who follows after God (not just the Hebrews), and honors the Sabbath can be part of the family of God. Isaiah 56:6-8 declares:
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
Long before Jesus walked the Earth, God declared that whether Hebrew or Gentile (non-Hebrew), all who join themselves to the Lord to love Him, and keep the Sabbath, and hold to His covenant, God will make a part of His people. God is here today gathering people from all nations, Semitic, Japhetic, and Hamitic, and extending His great grace to all those who would believe on the name of Christ.
God’s plan is for all to be saved. So while you may not be a biological descendant of Abraham, frankly it doesn’t matter. After all, one day after this life, those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be given a new and perfect, immortal body, where we will live and reign with Christ forever.
So do not be disheartened! And do not be led astray by teachings which overvalue the importance of human biology and mortal genetics. Surely, many who were biologically and genetically Hebrew also will not make it to eternity with God, because they did not believe and were disobedient to God. Some who were Gentile, conversely, will make it to heaven. Revelation 7:9 says that in the end of days there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
Our genetics have some importance and relevance in this life, and may impact our lives and how we live to some extent; but biology and genetics do not determine who makes it to eternity with God or not. All people of all genetics Hebrew of Gentile, have a chance for hope, should they believe in Christ and in God, and be obedient to God’s will. Your genetic heritage does not help or hurt your chances at eternity or the destiny that God has planned for your life.