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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:

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.