Long before being taken into captivity, the Israelites existed as a unified kingdom under Saul (reigned from 1050 to 1010 B.C.), King David (1010 - 970) and Solomon (970 - 930). Soon after the death of Solomon, however, the Kingdom divided into two separate pieces with each possessing their own line of rulers. Ten of the tribes formed the Northern Kingdom (also known as the Kingdom of Israel in the Bible) with rulers descended from Jeroboam I (reigned 930 to 909 B.C.). Two of the tribes (Benjamin, Judah), along with the tribe of Levi (the priests who served the temple), created the Southern Kingdom or Kingdom of Judah. Their rulers were the descendants of King David. Rehoboam (930 to 913 B.C.) was the first King of the Jews.
The start of Israel's (the northern ten tribes) captivity and ultimate demise began during the reign of Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, who ruled from 745 to 727 B.C. During his reign, he came into the land of Israel and took the inhabitants of the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun and Dan as captives. He also conquered areas east of the Jordan River and took the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and part of the tribe of Manasseh as captives (2Kings 15:29, see also 1Chronicles 5:26).
In 732 B.C. Hoshea became the nineteenth (and last) King of Israel when he assassinated King Pekah (2Kings 15:30). Although He paid tribute money to the Assyrian Empire for a few years, he stopped doing so shortly after a new Assyrian ruler, King Shalmaneser V, assumed the throne in 727. Shalmaneser, angry that no tribute was being paid, and finding out the Hoshea was secretly seeking a military alliance with Egypt, acted swiftly against Israel. His activities would lead to the captivity of what remained of Hoshea's kingdom (2Kings 17:4).
Around 725 B.C. Shalmaneser began to attack the Kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria (2Kings 17:5). In 723 Samaria fell and with it Hoshea, along with most of the remaining people in the land, were taken captive to Assyria (verse 6). God allowed this to happen as punishment for the nation's many sins against him, sins which they refused to repent of (2Kings 17:7 - 23). Because of their sins, chief of which was idolatry, the Kingdom of Israel lasted only 208 years.
The Southern or Kingdom of Judah lasted as an independent Kingdom from 930 to 597 B.C. (about 334 years). Sadly, like her northern counterpart, Judah's sins and refusal to obey God led Him to allow the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar to take Jerusalem, its capital, in 597 B.C. He pillaged the temple and took Judah's king, as well as many of the people including the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar then made Zedekiah a puppet king over Judah in 597. In 586, he lays siege to Judah and Jerusalem one last time, destroying the city and burning Jerusalem's temple completely to the ground.
Lost and Found
The history of the twelve tribes of Israel has been obscured by artificial gaps in their migratory history. The first gap occurs with the fall of the Northern kingdom. Historical accounts imply that this entire kingdom "suddenly disappeared" into Asia, or became "lost." At the same time, however, we have Scythians, Parthians, Gauthei, and related peoples "suddenly appearing" in Asia with Hebrew names and customs.
The next artificial gap occurs in the third century A.D. when history texts (if they mention Parthia at all) depict the Parthians as disappearing from their Asian homelands. This idea is promoted even though there are records the Parthians fled northwest.
Prior to the fall of the Parthian Empire (224 A.D.), we find many Semitic tribes living within its borders and in the Scythian regions of South Russia. Many of these tribes (the Sacae or Scythians), Kermans (Germanii), Jats, and Alani migrated out of Asia into Europe via the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea region of the Getae (or Gauthei) after the empire fell. In Europe, many of these migrating tribes were called the Saxons, Germans, Jutes, Alani (Alans) and Goths.