The History of the Ten "Lost" Tribes/Appendix
ARE WE THE TEN TRIBES?
By The Late HORATIUS BONAR, D.D.
(Reprinted by permission from The Sunday at Home, October, 1880.)
THAT the inhabitants of Great Britain are Israelites is a modern theory which has been widely spread. Its defenders have invented a large number of resemblances or "identifications," on which, in the absence of authentic history or national tradition, they rest their proof.
The languages of our country—Saxon, English, Welsh, and Celtic—have no affinity with the Hebrew; but that is made of no account. The history of the many tribes of which our nation is composed—whether Teutonic, or Saxon, or Caledonian, or Latin, or Scandinavian—is totally distinct from that of any of the tribes of Israel; but authentic history is in this case wholly set aside.
The manners and customs of our nation, both religious and social, have not the slightest resemblance to those of Israel; but this is quite ignored. The physiognomy of our countrymen—whether they are English, or Welsh, or Scotch, or Celtic, or Norwegian, or Norman—is the very opposite of Eastern, the Israelitish face being a marked contrast to the British; but that is reckoned of no consequence.
The names of men, women, and places in our land are not Hebrew or Semitic at all, but are traceable to another class of languages altogether; yet this weighs nothing. The occupation of our land by certain tribes, who we now call the Aboriginal Caledonians, or Britons (long before the Ten Tribes were carried captive to Assyria, and who, therefore, could not be Israelites), is passed by. The grand story of an Israelitish emigration from Assyria into Great Britain, whether by sea or land, we are not told, and there is neither history nor tradition nor local monuments to confirm it. And yet, when was there ever an emigration in which the emigrants did not carry their language, their religion, their manners, their dress, and their national traditions with them? This the identifiers of Israel with England have not considered. The Two Tribes in their dispersion over wide Europe carried their worship, their language, and their manners, into every European city, and synagogues exist to this day which were set up centuries before Christ, and every European Jew can tell for certain that he is a descendant of Abraham, and lives apart from the Gentiles around; yet, if the Anglo-Israelite theory be true, the Ten Tribes poured in upon Great Britain and settled themselves there, drove back the Aborigines, but left their religion, their books, their priesthood, their language, their names behind them, like cast-off clothes, in order to prevent themselves from being identified, as if ashamed of their ancestry. It must have been with Israelites that Julius Cæsar fought; their queen, Boadicea, not a Hebrew name, and their general, Caractacus, not a Hebrew name either: these Israelites must have set up the Druid religion in the island, and to them we must owe Stonehenge and similar relics of antiquity.
There is no evidence in the Bible, or in history, or tradition, for any such Israelitish emigration. Such a flood could not have passed over Europe, either north or south, without leaving some trace or being mentioned in history. If some two or three millions of Israelites did pour into this remote and barbarous island of ours, it must have been before the Romans came; and such a flood of Easterns must have made it a populous island, which certainly it was not.
These cultivated Easterns—for the Israelites, even in their apostasy, were a highly educated and cultivated nation—flowed in upon an island of barbarians, yet produced no impression, taught them no arts, gave them no language, and brought no civilisation to the barbarous Britons and Caledonians; whereas the Romans, who followed, carried language, arts, manners, names with them, and left behind them (though theirs was but a brief military occupation) traces of their Latin footsteps, which remain to us after nineteen centuries. Traverse our island, and you will find in every county names and traditions and ruins that tell you that Rome was once here; but no name or traditions to say that Israel was here. Note: In Cornwall there may be some traces of Phœnician commerce; but we know whence these Eastern strangers came and the object of their coming, viz., to procure tin from the mines.
Are such things credible or possible? Prophecy, moreover, intimates that Israel is to remain scattered and under the curse till the Redeemer comes out of Zion, and will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. The whole Twelve Tribes are under the curse till the great day of national deliverance comes for Judah and for Israel.
Let Rom. xi. be studied in connection with this.
The "identifications" gravely announced in some of the many pamphlets of Anglo-Israelitish literature are somewhat peculiar, and do not carry any extraordinary amount of weight with them to counterbalance the above arguments. Here are a few of them:—
1. "Isles and islands," spoken of by the prophets. These must be the British Isles, and, therefore, their inhabitants are the Ten Tribes.
2. "Israel loveth to oppress," the prophet says; "England loveth to oppress"—therefore, England is Israel.
3. "I believe," says one of the Anglo-Israelitish authors, "that Sunday Schools have been raised up purposely for this identity!"
4. "Israel is to occupy the ends of the earth." Britain does so; therefore, Britain is Israel.
5. "Israel is to possess the gates of his enemies." We possess Gibraltar, Malta, the Cape, etc.; therefore, we are Israel, for these are "the gates" of our enemies.
6. "The smoke and fire coming up from the cities and furnaces of our land are like the pillar cloud of Israel."
7. The people in the South of Ireland trouble us, just as the Canaanites troubled Israel; therefore, we are Israel, for the South of Ireland is peopled by the descendants of the Canaanites.
8. Jacob's stone is still in our possession. It is that on which Jacob slept, that which was the chief corner-stone of the Temple—saved by Jeremiah, and taken by him to Ireland, and then placed in Westminster Abbey under the Coronation chair; therefore, the English are Israelites.
9. "Jacob's glory is like the firstling of a bullock" (Deut. xxxiii. 17). The identifiers write: "The ox being oftentimes applied to Israel may partly be said to emblemise the world-famed power of John Bull."
No evidence (worthy of its name), either historical, ethnological, linguistic, or traditional, is produced; we get nothing but conjectures and fanciful allusions as the proofs of this singular theory.
Some of its defenders boast that since this theory was started the incomes of our Jewish Mission Societies have fallen off by £15,000. Whether this is true or not we cannot say; but the boast, whatever be its foundation, shows the spirit of the writers and the tendency of the new doctrine.
Noah's prophecy stands out clear and sharp with its threefold ethnology; Shem, Ham and Japheth are the roots of the nations, and God has kept them distinct: let us beware of confounding them. History tells us that our pedigree is to be traced to Japheth. The modern discoveries in ethnology confirm this beyond a doubt; Eastern monuments, whether of Assyria or Egypt, tell the same story.
The above theory rests on a misreading of prophetic truth: such a misreading robs it of all its Divine spirituality. Outward national prosperity and greatness, not righteousness nor truth, are made the characteristics of the Israel of prophecy. England—full of crime, infidelity, immorality, and ungodliness—is said to be now enjoying the favour of God, which is destined for Israel in the latter day! The knowledge of the glory of the Lord is to be the privilege of these tribes, and by that knowledge they are to be exalted. But this theory gives us another standard of the nation's greatness—a standard which no part of Scripture recognises, least of all the sure word of prophecy, the light in the dark place. This theory darkens the whole prophetic Word, perverting events and inverting times and seasons. It denies Israel's present guilt, and lowers our ideas of Israel's coming glory. It puts a Gentile King and Queen in the place of the nation's own Messiah, under whose sceptre alone it is to enjoy peace, blessedness and holy greatness. It rejects the apostle's symbol of the olive tree, in Rom. xi.; Not merely confounding the Jewish and the Gentile dispensation, denying that the once good olive tree has for a season become evil, and its branches cut off to make room for the grafts of the wild olive tree.
This is emphatically and pre-eminently the time of the wild olive tree, whereas this theory not only confuses the wild olive with the good, but denies that it is the grafted branches of the wild olive tree that are now bearing fruit and receiving blessing.
When the dispensation of the wild olive, or Gentile, shall end, then, but not till then, shall the blessing and the glory return to the good olive—that is, to "all Israel."
Let us take the Word of God simply as we find it. Let us beware of fanciful identifications, which, even were they true, are not worth the stress laid upon them. Suppose I could prove, not by conjecture, but by registered genealogies, that I belong to the tribe of Ephraim or Issachar, what does it profit me? Will it make me a holier man to know that I belong to those northern tribes against which the Lord, when here, pronounced His darkest woes, as primarily and pre-eminently His rejectors. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the Day of Judgment than for thee."
Capernaum, the representative of the Ten Tribes, had been condemned for refusing the Lord of Glory before Jerusalem was cast away.
To esteem external national prosperity as God's special mark of favour, is to carnalise all the prophets, and to degrade, not only the glory of the latter day, but present privileges in Christ; for what a poor thing these privileges and the glory must be if this sinful nation of ours, that seems ripe for judgment and rejection, be the exhibition of these, the fulfilment of Jehovah's promises to the beloved people.