The so-called ten lost tribes of Israel were:
- the three tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan River: Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe Manasseh
- the six tribes in Israel/Samaria: Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Ephraim (son of Joseph).
The first three were deported in an early Assyrian invasion:
1 Chronicles 5:25-26 But these tribes were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors. They worshiped the gods of the nations that God had destroyed. So the God of Israel caused King Pul of Assyria (also known as Tiglath-pileser) to invade the land and take away the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh as captives. The Assyrians exiled them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River, where they remain to this day.
The next seven were deported by a later Assyrian king:
2 Kings 17:6 Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Place names have changed so much that we now don’t know where Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River are. Theories include:
- north of the Caucus mountains, near the Volga River (the Khazars), in and around Georgia, near the Black Sea and, for the cities of the Medes, West Turkestan
- scattered across Africa, Asia, and the islands of the sea, including Ethiopia, India and China (with some DNA studies to support some claims)
- Wikipedia and the Jewish Virtual Library both make the point that someone has tried to lay claim for most people groups (however imaginatively) back to the ten lost tribes.
Judah and Benjamin all stayed in the nation that became known as Judah. The Levites either stayed there or moved there from Israel/Samaria when Jeroboam made his golden calves and instituted a new priesthood to worship them.