God reestablished his covenant with Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob. The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel had 12 sons whose children became the 12 families or 12 tribes of Israel. Israel’s family eventually survived a famine by moving from the promised land to Egypt. There they multiplied and became a great nation. After many years Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and Joshua led them into the promised land. At this point, the tribe of Levi were designated as holders of the Aaronic Priesthood. Joshua 18:7 explains that the tribe of Levi received the priesthood, instead of land, as an inheritance. Furthermore, in fulfillment of promises made to Joseph, his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were both given lands of inheritance for their posterity. Eventually Israel divided into two nations—the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
The Lord warned the children of Israel that if they turned away from Him and worshipped idols, they would be removed from the land of their inheritance. Eventually they turned from God and were conquered and carried away from the promised land. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. They eventually became known as the 10 lost tribes. Later, the southern kingdom of Judah (or the Jews) were conquered and scattered by Babylon about 587 B.C. About 70 years later, many of the Jews began to return to the land of Israel, where they remained as a nation for many generations. In A.D. 70 and again in A.D. 135, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews among all nations. Remarkably, many of the Jews maintained their identity as a people. The lost tribes, however, remained scattered throughout the world; most of them do not know that they are descendants of Israel.