The Lord gave the name Israel to Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham in the Old Testament (Gen. 32:28; 35:10). The name Israel can refer to Jacob himself, his descendants, or to the kingdom those descendants once possessed in Old Testament times (2 Sam. 1:24; 23:3). After Moses led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage (Ex. 3–14), they were ruled over by judges for over three hundred years. Beginning with King Saul, kings ruled over united Israel until the death of Solomon, when ten tribes revolted from Rehoboam to form a separate nation. After the kingdom of Israel was divided, the northern tribes, as the larger part, kept the name Israel, while the southern kingdom was called Judah. The land of Canaan is also called Israel today. In another sense, Israel means a true believer in Christ (Rom. 10:1; 11:7; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 2:12).
The twelve tribes of Israel
Abraham’s grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, had twelve sons. Their descendants have become known as the twelve tribes of Israel or the children of Israel. These are the twelve tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun (the sons of Jacob and Leah); Dan and Naphtali (the sons of Jacob and Bilhah); Gad and Asher (the sons of Jacob and Zilpah); Joseph and Benjamin (the sons of Jacob and Rachel) (Gen. 29:32–30:24; 35:16–18).
Jacob gave each tribal leader a blessing before his death (Gen. 49:1–28). For further information, see the name of each son of Jacob.
Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob’s first wife, Leah, lost his birthright blessing and double portion of inheritance because of immorality (Gen. 49:3–4). The birthright then went to Joseph, who was the firstborn son of Jacob’s second wife, Rachel (1 Chr. 5:1–2). Levi, whose tribe the Lord had chosen to serve as his priesthood ministers, did not receive an inheritance because of their special calling to minister among all the tribes. This allowed Joseph’s double portion to be shared by Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (1 Chr. 5:1; Jer. 31:9), who were counted as separate tribes of Israel (JST, Gen. 48:5–6).
Members of the tribe of Judah were to be the rulers until the Messiah came (Gen. 49:10; JST, Gen. 50:24). In the last days the tribe of Ephraim has the privilege of carrying the message of the restoration of the gospel to the world and gathering scattered Israel (Deut. 33:13–17). The time will come when through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Ephraim will have a leadership role in uniting all the tribes of Israel (Isa. 11:12–13; D&C 133:26–34).
The scattering of Israel
The Lord scattered and afflicted the twelve tribes of Israel because of their unrighteousness and rebellion. However, the Lord also used this scattering of his chosen people among the nations of the world to bless those nations.
- I will scatter you among the heathen:Lev. 26:33;
- The Lord shall scatter thee among all people:Deut. 28:25, 37, 64;
- I will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth:Jer. 29:18–19;
- I will sift the house of Israel among all nations:Amos 9:9; ( Zech. 10:9; )
- Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel:Matt. 15:24;
- I have other sheep which are not of this fold:John 10:16;
- Israel shall be scattered upon all the face of the earth:1 Ne. 22:3–8;
- Jacob sets forth Zenos’s allegory of the tame and wild olive trees:Jacob 5–6;
- The work of the Father will commence among the dispersed tribes:3 Ne. 21:26;
The gathering of Israel
The house of Israel shall be gathered together in the last days before the coming of Christ (A of F 1:10). The Lord gathers his people Israel when they accept him and keep his commandments.
- He will lift up an ensign and they shall come:Isa. 5:26;
- With great mercies will I gather thee:Isa. 54:7;
- Israel and Judah are to be gathered to their lands:Jer. 30:3;
- The Lord shall gather the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered:Ezek. 28:25;
- In the dispensation of the fulness of times he will gather in one all things in Christ:Eph. 1:10;
- After Israel is scattered, they will be gathered:1 Ne. 15:12–17;
- The Lord will gather in all people of the house of Israel:1 Ne. 19:16; ( 3 Ne. 16:5; )
- They shall be brought out of darkness and know that the Lord is their Savior:1 Ne. 22:12;
- God gathers and numbers his children:1 Ne. 22:25;
- The nations of the Gentiles shall carry Israel forth to the lands of their inheritance:2 Ne. 10:8; ( 3 Ne. 16:4; )
- My people and my word shall be gathered as one:2 Ne. 29:13–14;
- The elders are called to gather the elect:D&C 29:7; ( D&C 39:11; )
- I will gather mine elect:D&C 33:6;
- Gather so that I may give you my law and that you may be endowed:D&C 38:31–33;
- I will recover my people, who are of the house of Israel:D&C 39:11;
- The saints shall come forth:D&C 45:46;
- Moses delivered the keys of the gathering:D&C 110:11;
- Righteousness and truth will sweep the earth and gather out the Lord’s elect:Moses 7:62;
- The gathering is compared to the gathering of eagles to a carcass:JS—M 1:27;
The ten lost tribes of Israel
The ten tribes of Israel made up the northern kingdom of Israel and were carried away captive into Assyria in 721 B.C. At that time they went to the “north countries” and became lost to the knowledge of others. In the last days they will return.
- I will say to the north, Give up:Isa. 43:6;
- These shall come from the north:Isa. 49:12; ( 1 Ne. 21:12; )
- Judah and Israel shall come together out of the land of the north:Jer. 3:18;
- The Lord liveth who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north:Jer. 16:14–16;
- I will bring them from the north country:Jer. 31:8;
- The Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel:2 Ne. 29:12–13;
- I go to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel:3 Ne. 17:4;
- When the gospel is preached to the remnant of the house of Israel, the lost tribes will be gathered home to the land of their inheritance:3 Ne. 21:26–29;
- Moses committed the keys of the gathering of Israel to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery:D&C 110:11;
- They who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord:D&C 133:26–32;
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel:A of F 1:10;