The Kingdom of Israel (or Northern Kingdom) was one of the successor states to the older United Monarchy (also called the Kingdom of Israel), which came into existence in about the 930s BC after the northern Tribes of Israel rejected Solomon’s son Rehoboam as their king. Nine landed tribes formed the Northern Kingdom: the tribes of Reuben, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. In addition, some members of Tribe of Levi, who had no land allocation, were found in the Northern Kingdom. The Tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, and formed the Kingdom of Judah (or Southern Kingdom). Members of Levi and the remnant of Simeon were also found in the Southern Kingdom.
According to 2 Chronicles 15:9, members of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon “fled” to Judah during the reign of Asa of Judah. Whether these groups were absorbed into the population or remained distinct groups, or returned to their tribal lands is not indicated.
In c. 732 BC, Tiglath-Pileser sacked Damascus and Israel, annexing Aram and territory of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh in Gilead including the desert outposts of Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. People from these tribes including the Reubenite leader, were taken captive and resettled in the region of the Habor river system. Tiglath-Pilesar also captured the territory of Naphtali and the city of Janoah in Ephraim and an Assyrian governor was placed over the region of Naphtali. According to 2 Kings 16:9 and 15:29, the population of Aram and the annexed part of Israel was deported to Assyria.
Israel continued to exist within the reduced territory as an independent kingdom until around 720 BCE, when it was again invaded by Assyria and the rest of the population deported. The Bible relates that the population of Israel was exiled, leaving only the Tribe of Judah, the Tribe of Simeon (that was “absorbed” into Judah), the Tribe of Benjamin and the people of the Tribe of Levi who lived among them of the original Israelites tribes in the southern Kingdom of Judah. However, Norman Finkelstein estimated that only a fifth of the population (about 40,000) were actually resettled out of the area during the two deportation periods under Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II. Many also fled south to Jerusalem, which appears to have expanded in size fivefold during this period, requiring a new wall to be built, and a new source of water (Siloam) to be provided by King Hezekiah. Furthermore, 2 Chronicles 30:1-11 explicitly mentions northern Israelites who had been spared by the Assyrians in particular members of Dan, Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher and Zebulun and how members of the latter three returned to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem at that time.
The Book of Tobit additionally records that Sargon had taken other captives from the northern kingdom to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, in particular Tobit from the town of Thisbe in Naphtali.
In medieval Rabbinic fable the concept of the ten tribes who were taken away from the House of David (who continued the rule of the southern kingdom of Judah) becomes confounded with accounts of the Assyrian deportations leading to the myth of the “Ten Lost Tribes”. The recorded history differs from this fable: No record exists of the Assyrians having exiled people from Dan, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun or western Manasseh. Descriptions of the deportation of people from Reuben, Gad, Manasseh in Gilead, Ephraim and Naphtali indicate that only a portion of these tribes were deported and the places to which they were deported are known locations given in the accounts. The deported communities are mentioned as still existing at the time of the composition of the books of Kings and Chronicles and did not disappear by assimilation.
The Jewish tradition held until modern times that all the population of the kingdom was deported by Assyria, never to be heard of again. They are considered the Ten Lost Tribes.
Some evidence exists of a continuing identification in later centuries of individual Jews to the Lost Tribes. For example, in Luke 2:36 of the New Testament, an individual is identified with the tribe of Asher. In recent years many group have claimed descent from these Lost Tribes, some of which have been upheld by Israel’s rabbinic authorities.