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Questions and Answers

Northern Tribes in Judah?

Q: Sorry to bother you again, but you seem to have the answers I am looking for! I have checked my commentaries and cannot find the answer.

Like I had told you before we are doing a study about the Divided Kingdom. In 2 Chronicles 11:16 it says, Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers. The underlined them, it looks to me that they are the Levite priests that were going to Judah, is that correct?

Where it says, from all the tribes of Israel does this mean some from each of the Ten Tribes that went North? And, if so does that mean that there was a remnant of each tribe in Judah when they went into captivity?

A: Yes, the them of 2 Chronicles 11:16 are members of the tribe of Levi, including the priests, that were excluded from religious service in the kingdom of Jeroboam (the northern kingdom of Israel, 2 Chron. 11:14). They remained faithful when Jeroboam and his kingdom turned away from God.

Those from all the tribes of Israel at the beginning of verse 16 refers to others (non-Levites) from the northern tribes who went to Jerusalem to sacrifice, and rejected the high places in the north that were now controlled by non-Levitical priests.

Whether these others from the northern tribes actually moved permanently to Judah, as did the members of the tribe of Levi, is unclear from this verse, which says that they followed them to Jerusalem to sacrifice. But it’s certainly possible that some decided to move to Judah. However we do know that later on, at the time of the Assyrian invasion, a large number of people from the northern tribes escaped and moved to Judah (2 Chron. 30:25, 31:6). This has been confirmed archeologically by the many new villages that sprang up in the hill country of Judah at this time.

From this we know that yes, when Judah went into exile under the Babylonians, all twelve tribes were represented among them. Representatives of some of the ten northern tribes also joined in the return to Judah in the time of Cyrus under Ezra and Nehemiah (see for example Ezra 2:28, Neh. 7:32, and Anna of the tribe of Asher in Luke 2:36). As a result, the blood of all twelve tribes can be found in the Jewish people today.

(For more on this topic, see our teaching on The Ten Tribes. See, too, the index category on the Ten Tribes of Israel.)