Question: Why would Lehi be living in Jerusalem if he was of the tribe of Joseph?

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Question: Why would Lehi be living in Jerusalem if he was of the tribe of Joseph?

Israelites from the Northern tribes, including the tribes of Joseph, had fled to Jerusalam in the 8th century BC

It is claimed that the fact that Lehi was not of Judah, but of the tribe of Joseph, makes it absurd for him to have been living in Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity: "The tribe of Joseph at Jerusalem! Go, study scripture-geography, ye ignorant fellows, before you send out another imposition, and make no more such foolish blunders."[1]

Research by Jeffery R. Chadwick shows that Israelites from the Northern tribes, including the tribes of Joseph, had fled to Jerusalam in the 8th century BC, and their descendants had become established in that city by the time of King Zedekiah.

The story of 1 Nephi begins in Jerusalem ca. 600 BC, where Lehi had “dwelt…all his days” (1 Nephi 1:4). A curious fact is that all our principal characters (Lehi, Laban, and Ishmael), as descendants of Joseph, are Israelites of the Northern Kingdom (see 1 Nephi 5:14, 16). Nonetheless, they seem to be wealthy and powerful people in Jerusalem. This would, at first, seem to be amiss, and certainly not what you would expect from a 19th century writer telling a story about “Jews at Jerusalem.” Archaeologist Jeffrey R. Chadwick, however,has shown that just a few generations earlier an influx of refugees from the Northern Kingdom poured into Jerusalem in the wake of the Assyrian conquest of 722-721 BC. These refugees had settled into an extension of the city known as the Mishneh, which by the time 1 Nephi begins, had become fairly well-to-do and had been enclosed by the extended city-wall. (See Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Lehi’s House at Jerusalem and the Land of his Inheritance,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 87-99, 118-124.) This thus fits the portrayal in 1 Nephi of powerful and wealthy Northern Kingdom Israelites being present in Jerusalem at that period.


Notes

  1. Origen Bachelor, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: Privately Published, 1838), 9. off-site