The Ten Kingdom of Israel fell and its inhabitants were exiled by the Assyrians. In general, it can be said that these Israelites tribes disappeared from the stage of history, but the historical passage in 1 Chron 5:26 insists that the Ten Tribes were there "unto this day" and the well-known Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 11:11, and others such as Jer 31:8, and Ezek 37:19–24 (above all) keep the belief alive that they had maintained a separate existence and that the time would come when they would be rejoined with their brethren, the descendants of the Exile of Judah to Babylon.

The belief in the continued existence of the Ten Tribes was regarded as an incontrovertible fact during the whole period of the Second Temple and of the Talmud. "Tobit", the hero of the apocryphal book of his name, was depicted as a member of the Tribe of Naphtali; the Testament of the 12 Patriarchs takes their existence as a fact; and in his fifth vision, IV Ezra (13:34–45) saw a "peaceable multitude… these are the ten tribes which were carried away prisoners out of their own land."

Josephus (Ant., 11:133), states as a fact "the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now [during his time 37 – c. 100 already], and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated in numbers." 

Paul (Acts 26:6) protests to Agrippa that he is accused "for the hope of the promise made unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God, hope to come," while James addresses his epistle to "the twelve tribes which are scattered about" (1:1).

R. Eliezer expresses his view that they will eventually return "after darkness is fallen upon the ten tribes light shall thereafter dwell upon them". In agreement with this view, though it is agreed that Lev 26:38 applies to the Ten Tribes, where R. Meir maintains that it refers to their exile.

Their inability to rejoin their brethren was attributed to the fact that whereas the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (the Kingdom of Judah) were "scattered throughout the world," the ten tribes were exiled beyond the mysterious river Sambatyon, with its rolling waters or sand and rocks, which during the six days of the week prevented them from crossing it, and though it rested on the

Sabbath, the laws of the Sabbath rendered the crossing equally impossible.

According to the Jewish Historical Literature, the exiles were divided into three:
1) only one-third went beyond the Sambatyon,
2) a second-third to "Daphne of Antioch," and
3) over the last-third "there descended a cloud which covered them".

But all these three would eventually return.