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 (see RaShi to Isaiah 8:23)
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: Prior to the year 3187 the kingdom was not subject to a complete exile but was subject to various partial exiles.
Note #2: See last RaShI in Tractate Erchin 12a, where he states there were only two exiles for Judah and not three.
To quote sources:
Proof that other tribes remained scattered throughout the territory of Judah
Proof that a remnant remained in their territories
- The plain meaning of Kings 12:17 seems to imply that King Rehoboam ruled over members of other tribes that resided in the cities of Judah: [As regards] the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Juadah ...(Kings I 12:23).
- ...and the rest of the people... (Kings I 12:23). R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler, in his commentary Mezudath David, explains the verse as "many of the other tribes dwelled in the territories of Judah and Benjamin.". Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RaLBaG or Gersonides) comments on the same that the territory of the tribe of Simeon was scattered throughout the land of Judah. He also notes that members of all the other tribes lived in Jerusalem.
- Don Isaac Abarbanel comments on Isaiah 17:6 ...four or five on its branches... remnants of the other tribes fled to Jerusalem for refuge during the Samarian exile of Sennacherib.
- II Chronicles 15:9 relates that King Asa ... gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those dwelling with them from Ephraim and Manasseh and from Simeon, for many of Israel had defected to them .... RaLBaG explains that this occurred in the fifteenth year of King Asa, after he was victorious in a war with against King Baasha of the ten tribes. Many of the ten tribes, after seeing that G-d was on the side of King Asa, defected.
- R' Shlomo Yitzchaki's (RaShI) commentary to Isaiah 32:2 explains the end of the verse as "those remaining from the ten tribes" seeking a hiding place during the time of King Hezekiah, prior to the defeat of Sennacherib.
Proof that the tribes returned
- As shown in the timeline above, the ten tribes were not exiled all at once but rather over a period of almost 20 years. There were three waves of exile. The first two exiles were comprised of only two tribes each. See R' Shlomo Yitzchaki's (RaShI) commentary to Kings II 17:1.
- ...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.
- The people of the city of Bethel described the circumstances regarding a certain grave located there to King Josiah, as recorded in II Kings 23:17. King Josiah reigned from 3285 - 3316. The exile of Bethel was in 3206, many years before the rule of King Josiah. R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) comments that the explanation of the grave was a tradition handed down from father to son for over 350 years. Don Isaac Abarbanel (v. 18) says explicitly that this could not have been a response from the Cuthean population that was settled there. He states that 2 or 3 small groups remained from the "upper branches" of families throughout the land.
- 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.
- In Don Isaac Abarbanel's commentary on II Kings 23:18, he references II Chronicles 30:1 and states that there remained scattered throughout the land a remnant from the tribes of Zebulun, Asher, Simeon, Ephraim & Manasseh. He also references II Chronicles 34 and says that there was a remnant of Ephraim & Manasseh during the rule of King Josiah.
- The verse in Isaiah 14:32 states ...the poor of the people... to which R' Shlomo Yitzchaki's (RaShI) comments, ...even from the ten tribes they would come.... He references II Chronicles 30:6 to prove that King Hezekiah sent messengers throughout the borders of Israel to return to G-d.
- In explaining Isaiah 33:20, R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) states that in the beginning of King Hezekiah's reign, he sent letters to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. This was prior to the fall of Sennacherib (and return of the tribes), during a period of time after the exile of the Ten Tribes. Obviously, the whereabouts and accessibility of at least these two tribes were known.
- In the commentary of R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) to Isaiah 20:5 he relates that in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, eight years after the exile of the ten tribes, there remained the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and a small remnant [of other tribes] throughout the land.
Proof that there were members of the other tribes still known, even AFTER their exile
- In a discussion regarding the Jubilee during the First Commonwealth in Talmud Bavli, Tractate Erchin 12a - b there is a clear statement that the prophet Jeremiah brought the ten tribes back in the year eighteenth year of King Joshiah.
- 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.
- And when there is yet a tenth of it ... (Isaiah 6:13). Don Isaac Abarbanel (v. 12) focuses on the end of chapter 6. He has various explanations for the meaning of "a tenth". He states that it is referring to a tenth of the ten tribes, those exiled nearby to the land of Israel. It was this tenth that the prophet Jeremiah was able to retrieve. They were in the lands of Amon, Moab and other neighboring areas. He was unable to bring back the exiles from Halah, Habor, the river of Gozan and the cities of the Medes. These locations are quoted in II Kings 17:6.
- 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 ten tribes (from the Assyrian exile) came to Jerusalem to be under King Hezekiah's protection.
- 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 King 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.
- R' Joseph Kara, in his commentary Mahari Kara to Isaiah 11:11 states that after the fall of Sennacherib, many of exiles from the Ten Tribes returned as they no longer feared him. He notes that this was (90 years) prior to the time that Jeremiah brought them back and King Josiah ruled over them.
Proof that there were other individuals exiled prior to the ten tribes
- 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 refers to 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.
- During talmudic times there is reference to genealogical research that resulted in a person being traced to the tribe of Dan and another to the tribe of Zebulun (Pesachim 4a).
- 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.
- Talmud Bavli, Eiruvin 45a, describes "wells of the tribes" which R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) describes as wells used by caravans traveling from Babylon to Israel. It seems obvious that the term "tribes" refers to more than just Judah. Otherwise, the more generic term of "olei Bavel" would be used.
To be fair, there are sources that can be construed to present a broader view, that the ten tribes are lost. Of the earlier commentaries, R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) seems to favor this approach, at least for the exiles to Halah and Habor:
- 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.
- ...and Aram went out in bands and captured from the land of Israel... (Kings II 5:2). This story transpired sometime around the Hebrew year 3050 which was more than 100 years before the first of the exiles.
- ...and I will not cause Israel's feet to wander... (Kings II 21:8). R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains the verse that prior to King Manasseh (3230 - 3285).
- In describing the exile of the ten tribes, it states ... none was left but the tribe of Judah alone (Kings II 17:18), which would seem to indicate that eleven tribes were lost. However, R' Yechiel Hillel Altschuler (Mezudath David) modifies the phrase to be "none was left in their land but the tribe of Judah". R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) adds that the tribe of Benjamin was included and subordinate to the mention of the tribe Judah.
- Talmud Bavli, Tractate Sanhedrin 110b records the opinion of R' Akiva that the ten tribes are not destined to return to the land of Israel. See RaShI's commentary there and Ramban to Gitten 36a, RYTvA ibid, Derech Emunah, Laws of Shmita v'Yovel 10:8 in Beur HaHalacha, heading Bzman, at length.
- 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".
- R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) comments on ...you and Shear-Yashuv... (Isaiah 7:3) that one of Isaiah's sons was named Shear-Yashuv to symbolize that only a remnant of Judah would return from exile. This is in contrast with the ten tribes who did not return after the 70 years and they still have not returned. He further comments on Isaiah 46:3 that the ten tribes did not return with those returning from Babel.
- ... 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.
- ... and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, unto this day. (I Chronicles 5:26) clearly states that those exiles are still there, until this day. A similar verse, found in II Kings 17:6, does not include the phrase "unto this day". It also does not list the location "Hara" and adds in "the cities of Medes".
- The prophet Isaiah gives comfort, stating And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) comments that those exiled to Halah and Habor will eventually be redeemed by the King Messiah. This indicates that at least of portion of the 10 tribes remain lost. See Ibn Ezra on the same verse as well.
- The verse in Isaiah 11:11 states ... the L-rd shall continue ... a second time to acquire the rest of His people. The commentators (RaShi, ReDaK, Ibn Ezra & Mahari Kara) all note that this does not refer to the Second Temple, as that redemption was incomplete. They note that the Second Temple era returnees were only from parts of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
- In explaining the seeming contradiction between the verses in Jeremiah 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1, R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) explains that Jeremiah was addressing the ten tribes while Isaiah was addressing Judah and Benjamin. He says that while Judah was exiled for 70 years and then returned for 420 years, the other tribes were exiled and have not yet returned. They did not return (from where they were) when Judah returned from their exile in Babylon.
- R' Shlomo Yitzchaki (RaShI) comments on ... neither in truth nor in righteousness (Isaiah 48:1) 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. On the phrase in Isaiah (17:3) of "... the glory of the children of Israel ..." RaShI notes the comparison of the Amonite exile to that of the ten tribes to Halah and Habor. This reference implies that there were members of all ten tribes in that exile.
- In explaining the verse And I will extract seed from Jacob and from Judah(Isaiah 65:9), the ReDaK explains that Jacob refers to the ten tribes that have not yet returned from their original exile.
- Ezekiel the Prophet, when describing the in-gathering of the exiles, refers to the exiled ten tribes (Ezekiel 11:17), according to the commentary of the ReDaK. This prophecy took place just a few years before the destruction on the First Temple and almost 100 years after Jeremiah the Prophet retrieved (some of) the ten tribes.
What about the story that the tribes are exiled beyond to River Sambatyon?
- Ahijah the Shilonite prophesied concerning the exile, saying (I Kings 14:15) "... He will scatter them on the other side of the river ...". The commentaries offer various explanations of this phrase. Targum says it means beyond the Euphrates River. The RaLBaG says it refers to the River Gozen, as does Mezudath David. The ReDaK says it refers to the River Cush during the exile to Halah & Habor.
- In a similar prophesy, this time regarding the in-gathering of the exile, Isaiah states (27:12) ... The Lord will gather from the flood of the river... . RaShI says his refers to the Euphrates, as does Targum and Mezudath David. However R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) comments that this refers to the exiles beyond the Sambatyon River.
- RaShI (Isaiah 27:13) explains that "those lost in Assyria" are beyond the Sambatyon River.
- R' Akiva utilizes the River Sambatyon as proof that the Sabbath is a day of rest, as brought down in Tractate Sanhedrin 65b and Genesis Rabbah (11:5). RaShI in Sanhedrin explains that the River Sambatyon sprays rocks six days of the week, resting on the Sabbath.
- See Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 73:6, Numbers Rabbah 16:25
I would be very interested to hear from anyone with knowledge or an interest in the Miller family.
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Last updated 03/08/2017