Okay, this is good...apparently we are all in agreement that racial bloodlines have no benefit for salvation. That’s pretty self-explanatory in scripture. So I hesitate to currently make too much of an issue of the whole tribe list issue, since in Paul’s days, he really was cautioning against the “endless genealogies” mindset that circulated among the Israelite believers back then.
By that point in time, after Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, He had rendered the whole identity of the ethnic tribes as a moot point. “...There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ...”.
But that is a separate matter from the post exilic return period when members of all the tribes would be regathered to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
Jarrod, there are several texts that confirm that there really were members of all the Northern kingdom’s tribes that did return, along with the returning exiles of Judah’s captivity. This includes the verses you gave of Cyrus’ decree in Ezra 1:2, written to every nation throughout his whole kingdom, asking them “...Who is there among you of *ALL* His people? (of the Northern kingdom as well as the southern kingdom included) His God go with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem...”.
Assyria may have done a knock-out punch on the Northern kingdom, slaying mountains of citizens and enslaving a great number, but they did not kill every tribal member down to the last man. You have said that the Northern kingdom of Israel had no remnant left to return, but these following texts do not agree with that.
Ezra 10:25 - This chapter gives the list of men who had taken foreign wives before they had returned to the land of their fathers. Besides the men of the tribe of Levi with its priests, singers and porters who had married foreign wives, “...Moreover OF ISRAEL...” there were a large group of men who had also sinned in this matter. And it names them all personally.
Ezekiel 37:15-22 - This follows directly after the revived-dry-bones prophecy for the “WHOLE house of Israel”. God told Ezekiel to write a name on two separate sticks; one of them “For JUDAH (southern kingdom), and for the children of Israel his companions”. The other stick was to have written on it, “For Joseph, the stick of EPHRAIM (Northern kingdom), and for all the house of Israel his companions.”
These two sticks were to be joined and become one stick in Ezekiel’s hand. Showing that God intended “they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” God would not have used this illustration if there were not at least some physical descendants left of all the 12 tribes still existing that would be united in the post-exilic return.
Ezekiel 48:1-29 - This context gives a complete list of all 12 tribes and the planned division of the land between them. We know it is the time of the post-exilic return, because Ez. 48:11 specifically mentions the high priesthood family of Zadok - the only one of the Levite families allowed the high priesthood after the post-exilic return.
Also, this Ezekiel 48 passage cannot possibly refer to any division of the land of Israel to the 12 tribes AFTER Christ’s high priesthood. That’s because Christ’s high priesthood after the order of Melchizedek superseded any other coming from the Levite tribe. It would be a change from the Zadok-approved high priesthood accompanied by a change in the law over to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
Amos 9:8-9 - Amos was charged to prophesy prior to the Assyrians taking down the Northern kingdom of Israel. “Behold the eyes of the Lord are upon the sinful kingdom (the northern kingdom of Israel) and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving I will not UTTERLY destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”
The destruction of the northern kingdom would not be a complete one. God had a very specific remnant of this “sinful kingdom” of Israel that would be reserved among all the nations where they would be scattered after the Assyrians had conquered them. Down to the last single ”grain”, God had selected a particular number to return.
Ezekiel 16:53-55 - In this context, God was excoriating Jerusalem for its idolatrous harlotry, but with promises to eventually restore Jerusalem after its ashamed repentance. Along with Jerusalem’s daughters, Jerusalem’s older sister Samaria and her daughters on the left hand (the Northern kingdom) and her younger sister Sodom and her daughters on the right hand (a pejorative title of the southern kingdom, as in Is. 1:1 and 10) would ALL have a remnant return from captivity.
“When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, AND the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them. When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, AND Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.”. This included a promise of a post-exilic return for Jerusalem, with Samaria representing the northern kingdom tribes, and Sodom representing the southern kingdom tribes.
Jarrod, you have also said that the tribes were always a sham, called a “mixed people”, even from the Egyptian exodus. Not exactly. A “mixed multitude” of strangers went out of Egypt *WITH* the Israelite tribes, and *AMONG* them (Ex. 12:38, and Num. 11:4). If these strangers followed Israel’s laws and religious observances, they were to share the same inheritance of the tribes as if they were born as one of them. There was to be one law that applied to them all (Num. 15:14-16), even if they were “strangers” that sojourned among them. This was an early precursor to the later concept of the “One New Man” reality of the New Covenant, having former Jew and former Gentile categories combined as one.
Jarrod, you asked why it was so particularly important that the northern kingdom be revived in the post-exilic return as well as the southern kingdom, since Christ only had to come from Judah of the southern kingdom. One big reason was that “Gog” (an Israelite who would come out of his place in the “NORTH PARTS” of Israel - i.e. Galilee), was prophesied about “in old time”, even before Israel’s tribes entered the land of Canaan. (Think Balaam’s prophecy.) Ezekiel foretold of this “chief prince” called “Gog” who would come against his own people Israel in the “latter days” and ”at the END OF YEARS” in a “brother against brother” battle. The AD 70 era, in other words, at the “consummation of the ages” (Heb. 9:26).
“Gog” was going to be the Zealot leader coming from Galilee in the NORTH quarters of Israel who was called Simon bar Giora - literally, “Simon son of the proselyte”. Zealotry was a certain element of Israel’s history ever since Maccabean times, but was especially building in intensity around the time Christ was born. God intended to use this internal seditious factor in Israel as a catalyst to bring the nation down during God’s “days of vengeance” against those who rejected His Son.
If the tribes of the Northern kingdom had not been restored, the prophecy about the Israelite “Gog” coming from out of his place in the north parts of Israel would not have been fulfilled, with his army being composed of combatants coming out of all those various nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38:1-6.
Bottom line - the seed of ethnic Israel’s destruction of the tribes was sown in the very bowels of the post-exilic return of both northern and southern kingdoms.