Where did the northern 10 tribes of Israel go after their Assyrian captivity? They became known to historians as the "lost 10 tribes." What happened to them, and how do they fit in with the present peoples of the state of Israel?
We need to realize that Israel today includes far more territory than just this tiny modern Middle Eastern nation. Most people associate the name Israel with the Jewish state of that name. However, the Jewish people are descendants of primarily two of the 12 tribes that made up ancient Israel—Judah and Benjamin, along with a considerable portion of the priestly tribe of Levi.
After the reign of King Solomon, God caused the kingdom of Israel to divide into two separate nations because of Solomon's sins. The northern 10 tribes retained the name of Israel while the southern portion with its two tribes was called the kingdom of Judah. The word Jew is merely a shortened form of Judah. The first time the word Jews appear in the King James Version of the Bible, in 2 Kings:16:5-6, the northern nation of Israel is actually at war with the Jews! So clearly they are not one and the same people.
After the time of Solomon, these two nations became two politically distinct geographical entities. The Jews are part of the Israelites descended from the patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. But he had other sons, and the descendants of 10 of them formed the northern nation of Israel, including the descendants of the patriarch Joseph.
Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In due time their descendants became two great modern nations, one with an empire that stretched around the world. Joseph's descendants became the easiest to identify in contemporary history because the prophetic blessings they were to receive stand out so distinctly (see Genesis:49:22-26 and Deuteronomy:33:13-17).
The intriguing story of how the modern descendants of the patriarch Joseph eventually became Great Britain and the United States of America is told in our free Bible study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy . Much of God's prophetic plan cannot really be understood without the national identifications carefully laid out in this publication.
Both Great Britain and the United States played major roles, one following the other, in the restoration (after nearly 2,000 years) of the Jewish people to nationhood in the Middle East in 1948. The Balfour Declaration in Britain (1917) was followed by U.S. President Harry Truman's crucial political backing in the late 40s. The destinies of all three nations—biblically known as Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh—are intertwined and will be a big part of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy at the time of the end, albeit in different ways.