10 Lost Tribes

Another way of looking at the counting of the tribes of Israel is that the two tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) were counted as half tribes (see Joshua 14:2-3). So we have Joseph’s 11 brothers each with a tribe, and Joseph’s two sons with half a tribe each.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board, bill.

I assume you’re referring to the column entitled What’s up with the ten lost tribes of Israel? That column was written by SDStaff Dex. He’s a pretty good Biblical scholar and happens to be Jewish.

If I’ve understood things aright, it is generally considered that Levi didn’t become a tribe either. The other tribes each got a portion of land to settle when they conquered Canaan, but the Levites did not. Instead, they became the hereditary priestly class, and dispersed among the other tribal lands to minister to the spiritual needs of all the others. For the other tribes, having a territory of their own was sort of a part of each tribe’s “tribehood” so the Levites, without their own territory, didn’t count as a tribe.

In this reckoning, the two Joseph half-tribes each count as a full tribe, so there are still 12 tribes.

(I got most of this understanding from reading Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, Old Testament, many years ago, as best I remember.)

There are two ways to count the twelve tribes. If you count Levi as a tribe, then Joseph is considered a tribe. If you count Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh as tribes, then you don’t count Levi.

What about the existing Samaritans? Do they consider themselves as belonging to a Jacobian tribe?

Ephraim, Manasseh and Levite priests, I believe.

The Samaritans consider themselves the true Jews. They claim that the Jews who came back after the Babylonian Exile had lost their religion and the Rabbinical religion of the returning Jews was not true.

As you can imagine, this lead to a lot of bickering between the Jews and Samaritans. The Jews accused the Samaritans of being idol worshipers, and the Samaritans accused the Jews of hearsay. The Samaritan’s interference with the rebuilding of the Temple didn’t make things any better.

By the way, once you know about the feud between the Samaritans and the Jews, you can understand how antisemitic the Parable of the Good Samaritan is. The Kohen and Levite were too concerned with the laws of ritual purity to bother themselves with a fallen fellow being. It was the Samaritan, the one who follows God’s true intention and isn’t weighted down by all those Rabbinic rules and regulations who saves the fallen man!

I always thought the point was that the Samaritan did the right thing in spite of being a Samaritan and not a true Jew, rather than because of it. In other words, the parable wasn’t meant as an endorsement of the Samaritan religion, but rather to illustrate that following the religious laws doesn’t free you from your obligation to your fellow man.

Those ancient Hebrews were sexist, they were. (But we all knew that.)

Israel also had a daughter, Dinah, but she never got to be a tribe. She’s only just barely ever even mentioned.

Yeah, I don’t think qazwart is expressing the general understanding of the Good Samaritan.

“Heresy”, I assume.
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