The Tribe of Issachar
Our family has a tradition that we descend from the tribe of Issachar.
If you have a similar tradition, please consider joining our DNA project. See our website for more information: https://www.familytreedna.com/surname_join.aspx?code=P84934&special=true
Our orthodox cousins frequently contest the claim on the grounds that the Ten Tribes are lost (perhaps beyond the river Sambatyon). Although this may be true, two other facts are evident from scripture and basic commentaries.
- Some members of tribes other than Judah, Benjamin and Levi remained scattered throughout the land after Sennacherib's exile.
- On two separate occasions, after the exile of the ten tribes, a wave of people returned to the land.
- After the fall of Sennacherib outside of Jerusalem (3213).
- During the reign of King Josiah (3303).
|T I M E L I N E
Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser exiles Zebulun & Naftali
Assyrian King Pul exiles Reuben, Gad & ½ Manasseh
Assyrian King Shalmaneser exiles balance of tribes of Israel to Halah, Habor & Media
Defeat of Sennacherib
Jeremiah retrieves tribes
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar exiles King Jehoiachin & nobility
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar exiles King Zedekiah & remnant (except poor)
Note: There were at least 2 other earlier exiles referenced by the commentators to Judges. See Judges 5:17, where Deborah chastises the tribe of Dan for fleeing in ships. This occurred sometime between 2636 - 2676. See RaLBaG to Judges 18:30, where he states that the exile mentioned there refers to 5:17. See also ReDaK to Judges 20:15, where he quotes the Midrash that 1000 of the survivors from the tribe of Benjamin fled to the land of Romania (Rome?). This would have been occurred probably sometime during the timeframe of 2502 - 2871.
To quote sources:
Proof that a remnant remained
Proof that the tribes returned
- ...the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together... (Jeremiah 50:4). R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains the verse, stating that "when the Ten Tribes were exiled, some of them remained scattered in the land". R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler, in his commentary Mezudath David, explains it similarly.
- ...neither in truth nor in righteousness (Isaiah 48:1). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) comments that in the specific exile of the tribes to the countries of Halah and Habor, in the times of Sennacherib, there is no redemption. Perhaps it is only the exile of Halah and Habor that is truly lost.
- King Josiah purified the land of all idol worship. II Kings 23:19 details his efforts in the city of Samaria. R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) comments that Josiah was king over all Israel, those who returned from the ten tribes through Jeremiah.. R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) goes on to explain that there was a small remnant from the exile of the ten tribes still scattered throughout the land.
- ...in the corner of a bed... (Amos 3:12). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) and R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) quote from Seder Olam (ch. 22) "Rabbi Nehorai said in the name of Rabbi Joshua: These are the ten tribes that relied on King Hezekiah and on Judah and escaped with them.".
Studying the surrounding verses and commentary leads to the conclusion that one-eighth of the ten tribes escaped the exile, having associated themselves with the tribe of Judah.
- Therefore, now they shall go into exile at the head of the exiles... (Amos 6:7). R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains the verse as referring to the survivors of Joseph who shall be the first of the exile of Judah.
This implies that after the ten tribes were exiled, there were still members of other tribes intermingled in the tribe of Judah.
Interestingly, four verses later (Amos 6:14), the prophet speaks of splintering. Both R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler, in his commentary Mezudath David, and Don Isaac Abarbanel explain the verse similarly. It is describing the exile of the ten tribes as being so powerful (splintering), as to preclude them from returning after the Babylonian exile. Those of the ten tribes that did not participate in the splintering exile, i.e. they were exiled with the tribe of Judah, could return.
- Tractate Sanhedrin 93b, explaining the verse in Daniel (1:6), quotes Rabbi Shmuel, son of Nachmaini, that Hanania, Mishael and Azariah were from tribes other than Judah. They were part of the first Judean exile in 3327, which was over one hundred years after the final exile of the ten tribes. This also proves that there were other tribes in the territory of Judah after the three exiles of the ten tribes.
- I Chronicles (4:41) discusses the conquests of the tribe of Simeon. Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RaLBaG or Gersonides) comments that this occurred during the reign of King Hezekiah, after the exile of the ten tribes. He goes on to say that these tribe members were a remnant that remained after the exile.
- R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) to I Chronicles 9:1 expounds that there remained from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun in the territory of Judah after the exile of the ten tribes. This remnant returned with the tribe of Judah after the Babylonian Exile.
- And the first settlers who were in their inheritance in their cities were the Israelites (I Chronicles 9:2). R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler (in Mezudath David) states that even though the ten tribes were exiled to Assyria, still, there remained a remnant scattered throughout the land that were exiled to Babylon together with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and they returned with them. R' Levi Ben Gershon (RaLBaG) states that it is well known that during the times of the Kings of Judah, after the exile of Samaria, and even before that time, a minority of the joined with the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. They were exiled to Babylon together with them and they returned with them already with Zerubbabel and also with Nehemiah and Ezra.
Proof that there were members of the other tribes still known, even AFTER their exile
- At that time, there shall be brought a gift to the L-rd of Hosts (Isaiah 18:7). R' Meir Leibush Malbim explains this verse as dealing with Sennacherib's defeat in the time of King Hezekiah. At that time, many of the exiled of the ten tribes returned from Assyria.
- In the eighteenth year of King Josiah's reign, Hilkiyah the High Priest went to consult with Huldah the Prophetess regarding a Torah Scroll that was found in the Temple. R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) and R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) comment (on II Kings 22:14) that they went to her and not to Jeremiah because he was not in Jerusalem at the time. He had gone to go retrieve the ten tribes.
- For such a Passover sacrifice had not been performed since the time of the judges... (II Kings 23:22). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) comments "... until now that the ten tribes were exiled and Jeremiah brought them back and Josiah ruled over them, and they all came to Jerusalem". This was in the eighteenth year of reign, in 3303.
- In describing the exile of Jehoiachin, King of Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar, scripture writes "And all the military men seven thousand... "(II Kings 24:16). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) and R' David Kimchi (ReDaK), in resolving an apparent contradiction between this verse and a prior one (ibid. v. 14) and a verse in Jeremiah (52:28), states "...three thousand were of the tribe of Judah and seven thousand of Benjamin and other tribes. Also in Seder Olam (ch. 25)". This exile took place in the Jewish year 3327. The three exiles of the Ten Tribes (3187 [Zebulun & Naftali], 3195 [Reuben, Gad, & half tribe of Manasseh], 3206 [Samaria - remaining tribes]), were more than one hundred years prior. It is obvious that there were still other tribes present in the land of Israel even after the exile of the Ten Tribes.
- Talmud Bavli, Tractate Megillah 14b states that after the prophet Jeremiah brought the ten tribes back, the Jubilee year was restored in the Holy Land. The ten tribes were ruled by King Joshiah ben Amon (also king of Judah at the time) from the eighteenth year of his reign.
- Midrash Ezra and R' Meir Leibush Malbim, on Nehemiah 10:32, reflect the disagreement between Rashi and Tosafoth in Talmud Bavli, Tractate Gittin 36b. The argument centers around the observance of the Jubilee year and the return of the exiles. Tosafoth are of the opinion that members of all the tribes did return at the time of the Second Commonwealth.
- Talmud Bavli, Tractate Erchin 32b - 33a discusses the applicability of the Jubilee year during the times of the Second Temple. To be in force, there is an opinion that the various tribes would all have to reside in the land of Israel, in their own respective cities (and not Jerusalem). R' Jochanan states that Jeremiah brought the ten tribes back as proof that the Jubilee year was in force at the end of the First Temple era.
For additional research on this topic, refer to Talmud Bavli, Tractate Sanhedrin 110b, R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI), heading "Ein Asidin Lachzor", the Chazon Ish, Shviis 3:11 and Maimonides to Talmud Bavli, Tractate Gittin 36b as well as the commentary of R' Yom-Tow ben Abraham Ashbeli (RYTvA) there.
To be fair, there are sources that can be construed to present a broader view, that all the tribes are lost:
- After the ten tribes rejected Rehoboam as king, he mobilized the army. G-d instructs the prophet Shemiah to tell them not to go to war. The message is conveyed to "Rehoboam ... all of the house of Judah and Benjamin, and the rest of the people." (I Kings 12:23). If the ten tribes abandoned Rehoboam, and the prophet already addressed the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, to what group do "the rest of the people" belong? The commentary Mezudath David explains that, "there were many from the other [ten] tribes that were dwelling in the lands of Judah and Benjamin." This would make it seem likely that even after the other tribes were exiled, they could have had members that remained behind, mixed in with Judah and Benjamin.
- ...and the house of Joseph I will save... (Zechariah 10:7) R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) states "in the place where they were exiled, there in Halah and Habor, in the days of Sennacherib". The Ibn Ezra on this verse explicitly states that Joseph is those returning from Assyria to the Second Temple.
- And the king said to the wise men who knew the times (Esther 1:13). Targum translates "And the king said to the wise men, the children of Issachar". This is an obvious proof that there were descendants from the tribe of Issachar intermingled with the Judean exiles in the Persian empire.
- The returnees at the time of the Second Temple numbered 42,360 (Ezra 2:64). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) and R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler (Mezudath David) both quote Seder Olam (ch. 29) that of that count, 30,000 were from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other tribes made up the balance of 13,000. We have definitive prof of all of the tribes still existing and populating the land at the times of the Second Commonwealth.
- ... and all Israel in their cities (Ezra 2:70). R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler (Mezudath David) explains this to mean those of the other tribes that ascended from the exile, aside from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
- In his commentary to Ezra 9:7, R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) explains that Ezra lamented the fact that there were still many of the ten tribes in exile in Babylon. Obviously this means the location of many of the ten tribes was known during the times of Ezra, in the beginning of the Second Commonwealth.
- In Tractate Megillah 16a the verse in Esther 6:13 is discussed. Haman's wife and wise men told him that if Mordechai is of Jewish descent you will not prevail against him. The Talmud explains that they told Haman that if Mordechai was from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, or Manasseh, you will not prevail against him.
Obviously, even in exile, the lineage and existence of other tribes was known.
- There was a Judean man in Shushan ... Mordechai (Esther 2:5). R' Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna explains that Mordechai was a prince over all the tribes included under the name of Judah. Although many of the ten tribes returned to the land of Israel, they did not occupy their own territory and were included in the exile of the tribe of Judah.
- R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) explains Zechariah 9:13 as dealing with the Hasmonean victory over the Greeks. The verse specifically mentions the involvement of Ephraim. R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler (Mezudath David) states that Ephraim refers to all ten tribes. R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) expounds further, clearly stating that after the exile in the days of Hoshea son of Elah, there remained a fragment of the ten tribes still in the land. He quotes II Chronicles 34:9 in further support (see also verses 7 and 8 there).
- R' Jochanan, who was from the remnant after the destruction of the Second Temple, stated (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Bava Metzia 84a) that he descended from the tribes of Joseph.
- The prophet Nehemiah list the resident tribes in Jerusalem at the time of the Second Commonwealth (Nehemiah 11:4). R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler in Mezudath David explains that since very few members of the other tribes lived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah did not count them. However, Ezra did mention the tribes of Ephraim & Manasseh (I Chronicles 9:3) when enumerating the residents of Jerusalem.
- And it shall be in the tribe with which the stranger sojourns... (Ezekiel 47:23). R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains the verse, stating that "In the future, when Israel emerges exile, the tribes will be identified. Although now they are all intermingled and no one knows to which tribe he belongs, Elijah will come and identify the tribe of each individual".
- ...because of the violence done to the children of Judah... (Joel 4:19). R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains that only Judah is mentioned since the Ten Tribes had already been exiled by Assyria and have not yet returned.
I would be very interested to hear from anyone with knowledge or an interest in the Miller family.
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Last updated 6/5/11