|Vol. I, No. 9
Kislev 5604, December 1843
The Missing Tribes of Israel.
Jamaica, July, 1843.
I take the liberty of calling your attention to the speculative opinions abroad as to the "missing tribes of Israel," and happening to lay hands on an old work wherein some remarks are offered by the author as to the probability of the Afghans being one of these tribes, I would respectfully solicit some remarks from your able pen for the information of your brethren of the western isles. Having the advantages of an extensive library at your command, you no doubt will, with great facility, be enabled to refer to those works which the author of the annexed extract speaks of; and as your publication is one of those intended for the dissemination of Jewish matters, I do not think you could devote your pages to a more useful purpose, than that of affording our brethren some account of the dispersion of the tribes. I do not mean to assert, sir, that we are wanting in intelligence; but, as I speak of benefits to be conferred generally, I of course have in view that which will improve the general body. The learned and intelligent are quite able to appreciate these motives, since the aim of philanthropists is to give instruction to the middling class, who compose the bulk of society; these have not the time to devote themselves to the study of deep and abstruse questions, to be found in learned works; but they rather look to periodical literature as the source from the pages whereof they may glean such matters relating to the history of their nation, as the editors of the Jewish publications may be able to put forth in their valuable prints. With these few remarks I leave the subject in your hands, and will be glad if I should be the humble means of encouraging communications on so important a subject.
Of The Ten Tribes Of Israel.
More than two thousand five hundred years ago, the ten tribes of Israel were carried captive into Assyria. About a hundred and fifteen years after this, Judah and Benjamin also were carried away to Babylon. These returned, and some few of the other tribes with them; but as a nation, Israel was never restored. According to Esdras, (book 2, chap. 13. 41-50,) they took counsel among themselves, and emigrated into a distant country, where never man dwelt; and the name of this country was Arsareth, at the distance of a year and a half's journey, where they are to dwell till the latter time, when God will bring them back with great wonders. The prophets abound with promises, not only respecting the restoration of Judah, (the Jews,) but of Israel also. From these tribes not having been heard of for so many ages, and the improbability of such a people escaping the notice of all travellers, the generality have been induced to conclude that they nowhere exist, as a distinct people, but have long ago been melted down among other nations, except those that united themselves with Judah and Benjamin, at their return from Babylon. That they should still exist, is certainly a very extraordinary circumstance, and should Providence bring them forward by and by, to act a conspicuous part in the great scene which is now opening, it will doubtless excite great astonishment; but both the event and the surprise were foreseen and predicted by the prophets. They foresaw that the reunion of Ephraim with Judah would not take place till after the great dispersion, and their resurrection from the long political death which they were to suffer for their sins. Then are Ephraim and Judah to be one people again, (Ezek. 37. 16-22.) And Judah shall say, "Who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone, these, where have they been?" (Isa. 49. 21.)
Independent of the prophecies, there is reason to conclude that this people do still exist distinct from other nations. The grounds for this conclusion may be seen in the Asiatic Researches, Vol. 2. That the reader may judge for himself, I shall take the liberty of quoting the extract which we find in the Monthly Review enlarged, vol. 10. p. 502. The account is whimsical enough, but considering the number of ages since the carrying away Israel captive, their corrupt state at that time, their miserable condition since, their ignorance of printing; &c., it affords as much proof as can be expected, at the first dawn of their existence. When we are better acquainted with them, their MSS., customs, &c., we may expect more light.
On The Descent Of The Afghans From The Jews.
The Afghans call themselves the posterity of Melic Talut, or King Saul. The descent of the Afghans, according to their own tradition is thus whimsically traced:
In a war which raged between the children of Israel and the Amalekites, the latter being victorious, plundered the Jews, and obtained possession of the ark of the covenant. Considering this the God of the Jews, they threw it into fire, which did not affect it; they afterwards endeavoured to cleave it with axes, but without success: every individual who treated it with indignity was punished for his temerity. They then placed it in their temple, but all their idols bowed to it. At length they fastened it upon a cow, which they turned loose into the wilderness.
When the prophet Samuel arose, the children of Israel said to him, "We have been totally subdued by the Amalekites, and have no king. Raise to us a king, that we may be enabled to contend for the glory of God." Samuel said, "In case, you are led out to battle, are you determined to fight?" They answered, "What has befallen us, that we should not fight against infidels! That nation has banished us from our country and children." At this time the angel Gabriel descended, and delivered a wand, and said, "It is the command of God, the person whose stature shall correspond with thin wand, shall be king of Israel."
Melic Talut was at that time a man of inferior condition, and performed the humble employment of feeding the goats and cows of others. One day a cow under his charge was accidentally lost. Being disappointed in his search; he was greatly distressed, and applied to Samuel, saying, "I have lost a cow, and do not possess the means of satisfying the owner. Pray for me, that I may be extricated from this difficulty." Samuel, perceiving that he was a man of lofty stature, asked his name. He answered, Talut. Samuel then said, "Measure Talut with the wand which the angel Gabriel brought." His stature was equal to it. Samuel then said, "God has raised Talut to be your king." The children of Israel answered, "We are greater than our king; we are men of dignity, and he is of inferior condition. How shall he be our king?" Samuel informed them they should know that God had constituted Talut their king, by his restoring the ark of the covenant. He accordingly restored it, and they acknowledged him their sovereign. After Taut obtained the kingdom, he seized part of the territories of Jalut, or Goliath, who assembled a large army, but was killed by David. Talut afterwards died a martyr in war against the infidels; and God constituted David king of the Jews.
Melic Talut had two sons, one called Berkia, and the other Irmia, who served David, and were beloved by him. He sent them to fight against the infidels, and by God's assistance, they were victorious.
The son of Berkia was called Afghan, and the son of Irmia was named Usbec. These youths distinguished themselves in the reign of David, and were employed by Solomon. Afghan was distinguished by his corporeal strength, which struck terror into demons and genii; Usbec was eminent for his learning.
Afghan used frequently to make excursions to the mountains, where his progeny, after his death, established themselves, lived in a state of independence, built forts, and exterminated the infidels.
To this account we shall subjoin a remark of the late Henry Vansittart, Esq. He observes, that,
A very particular account of the Afghans has been written by the late Ha Fiz Rahmat Khan, a chief of the Rohillas, from which the curious reader may derive much information. They are Mussulmans, partly Sunni, and partly of the Shiah persuasion. They are great boasters of the antiquity of their origin, and reputation of their tribe, but other Mussulmans entirely reject their claim, and consider them of modern and even base extraction. However, their character may be collected from history. They have distinguished themselves by their courage, both singly and unitedly, as principals and auxiliaries. They have conquered for their own princes and for foreigners, and have always been considered the main strength of the army in which they have served. As they have been applauded for virtues, they have been also reproached for vices, having sometimes been guilty of treachery, and even acted the base part of assassins.
A specimen of their language (the Pushto) is added, and the following note is inserted by the president:
This account of the Afghans may lead to a very interesting discovery. We learn from Esdras, that the ten tribes, after a wandering journey, came to a country called Arsareth, where we may suppose they settled. Now, the Afghans are said by the best Persian historians to be descended from the Jews; they have traditions among themselves of such a descent, and it is even asserted, that their families are distinguished by the names of Jewish tribes, although, since their conversion to the Islam, they studiously conceal their origin. The Pushto language, of which I have seen a dictionary, has a manifest resemblance to the Chaldaic, and a considerable district under their dominion is called Hazarch, or Hazaet, which might easily have been changed into the word used by Esdras. I strongly recommend an inquiry into the literature and history of the Afghans.
From "The Signs of the Times," by J. Bicheno, M. A., 1808.