14 Comments

Why are the 12 Tribes of Israel important?

The LDS Church has a list of 13 general beliefs, which was composed by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s. It does not cover everything the church believes, but is a good guide. In the 10th article of faith, it states, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes”.

First of all, why do we care about the 10 tribes? None of them appeared to have any redeeming value. Israel (Jacob) had 10 juvenile delinquent sons, who tried to kill their own brother Joseph. One of these sons slept with someone he thought was a prostitute, who turned out to be his sister. Other sons slaughtered an entire group of people who had just been circumcised.

As time moved on, we learn the 12 tribes of Israel split into a northern and southern kingdom. The northern kingdom pretty much was wicked the whole time, while the southern kingdoms of Judah and Benjamin were wicked most of the time, but had more periods of obeying God.

I just don’t understand why these tribes are supposed to be held in esteem, because it really doesn’t appear to me that they were ever worthy of the blessings of the Lord. Everything they do in the Bible appears to show that they were generally wicked. I know that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they would have posterity without number, but if the children were so wicked, do they merit more consideration than any other group of people?

So the 3 questions I would like answers to are these:

(1) Why does anyone care about the lost 10 tribes?
(2) Why is this restoration of the lost 10 tribes even mentioned in the 10th article of faith?
(3) If God is no respecter of persons, do the lost 10 (or 12) tribes merit more consideration than any other group of people?

I’d love to hear what anybody has to say. These are sincere questions, are are not intended to rile anybody up, though I know they may sound heretical, hence the name of this blog.

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14 comments on “Why are the 12 Tribes of Israel important?

  1. So does everyone agree with me, or does nobody care? Are the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob important, or not relevant to our current culture?

  2. I think that the lost ten tribes are used in a figurative sense, rather than literal. Strictly speaking, Ephraim was one of the lost ten tribes, so most members of the Church are really members of the ten lost tribes.

    There is also an idea floating around that the British are the descendants of the lost ten tribes. It became a way of directly linking Anglo-America to the Abrahamic covenant.

  3. When the 10th article of faith says “”We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes”, I have a hard time believing it is supposed to be figurative. It seems Joseph Smith didn’t think it was figurative.

    I know there are many urban legends about how these 10 tribes will be returned. I think there is a documentary by Simcha Jacobovici called “Quest for the Lost 10 Tribes” who believes they went to Asia. I think there is supposed to be some DNA evidence possibly linking it, but I haven’t seen the movie.

    Anyway, I’m really wondering more about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We hold them up to be great prophets, and I’m not trying to discount that at all. However, is anyone else troubled that Abraham would send his wife Hagar, and child Ishmael, out to die because they made fun of Isaac? It seems a little harsh to me.

    And I haven’t been able to learn how Isaac did anything great other than allowing himself to be possibly sacrificed to Abraham? Does this cause anyone concern? Didn’t the Lafferty brothers do the same thing in Utah in the 80’s “Under the Banner of Heaven”?

    And Jacob swindled his way to get Isaac’s blessing instead of Esau? This seems pretty deceptive to me. I know the standard “sunday school” answers about how this is supposed to be God’s plan, but doesn’t God love us all equally? Why is he showing favoritism for Jacob?

    I know it’s supposed to fulfill prophecy, but it seems to me that if God loves us all equally, why does he love Jacob more than Esau, or Sarah more than Hagar, or Isaac more than Ishmael, or Joseph more than his brothers. It seems many wars have been fought because God (supposedly) loved one group of people more than another. This whole notion of “chosen people” just seems to be part of the “useless genealogies” that the apostle Paul was talking about.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing genealogy, and have recently taken some names to the temple, but I just think that sometimes we hold onto “chosen people” more than we ought. God loves us all. Yes some people are more annoying than others, but it doesn’t make jews better than arabs, christians better than muslims, or mormon better than baptists. I just think that sometimes these stories are perpetuated, and probably should be de-emphasized much more.

  4. “The Lost Ten Tribes(LTT’s)are just as important as anyone else.

    No they’re more important–we have an article of faith dedicated to them, and no other group of people. The Bible seems to indicate they were a wicked people, so I have a hard time believing they were ever “led by righteous men i.e their own prophets because in the Bible, the Northern Kingdom is portrayed as wicked the entire time of their existence, which is why Assyria took over–they were ripe for destruction. Even the Nephites didn’t get to live on forever, but for some reason, the Bible seems to favor the 10 tribes, which makes God a respector of persons. I just don’t get it.

    Perhaps you’d like to see the latest post on a Lost tribe called the Lemba. I found some cool similarities with Lehi, and the DNA seems to be a closer match than anything we’ve found to date. Perhaps the lost 10 tribes can be discovered through DNA. Also, you may want to check out this post about a rabbi looking for the lost tribes. through DNA.

  5. I think it is important not to take the Bible out of the context in which it was made. The times were different, the mentality and worldviews of te peoples of those times are som completely different from ours, that in order to understand them just a little bit, we have to pt aside everything that we know to be right(for us).
    We may be horrified of Joshuas “genoside” and Abraham sending Hagar into the wilderness, but then I feel it is important to stop and consider whether we look at this through our 21st century glasses, and ignore the fact that this happened, so to speak, in an entirely different univers?
    I hope I was able to make myself understood, as english is not my native tongue:-)

  6. Mismos,

    Thanks for stopping by. I understand what you are saying, and somewhat agree with it. My real question is, are the 12 tribes important, and if so, why? Also, how do we reconcile their favored status?

  7. This subject is very critical. First of all, which are the ten tribes? I know that many tell of the tribe of Benjamin being divided, but this is mostly deduction and attempts to make the math come out correct regarding the one tribe of Judah and the 10 tribes of the kingdom of Israel. However, there is a marvelous message to the number ten. I explain this message in the 10th chapter of my book “Unlocking the Numbers”. The number suggests the message of “assessment”. It appears in the subject of tithing wherein one is to assess, rather than to have an IRS approach. One doesn’t take the poorest of his ten animals and give it as tithing. The ten tribes rejected Jehovah and were thus assessed as being without His guiding influence. Today this same process is in play when the judges choose the ten finalists in a contest. Why dont we have the eight or twelve finalists? Have you ever wondered why is it always ten finalists? The Savior parabled often telling of ten lepers, ten coins, ten pounds, ten virgina and ten servants. We should consider the ten commandments and the ten plagues. Each of these has the core message of assessment. God was not making numerical structures. Both John and Paul,the apostles, used tens in their writings of “I am” statements, ten virtues and qualifications.
    The ten tribes will be gathered as they accept Jehovah as their redeemer. The gathering is literal, but literal does not require all coming to the same place physically. Israel will be gathered as we heed, obey, listen and serve. That is literal!

  8. George,

    Thanks for stopping by. This is a real subject of interest to me. I’m interested to hear more about your book. Is there a website?

    I know that Hebrew has some real interesting concepts related to numbers. I believe forty means “trial”, seven is “complete”. One, two, three, and twelve have meanings which escape me.

    Your question you raise is an interesting one. It seems to me that people classify the lost tribes differently. For example, Jews seem to think Judah and Levi are both found, while the other 10 tribes are lost. Some exclude Dan due to sin, but others do not. Maybe I’ll post on the different lists….

    I guess what I don’t understand is this: why are the 10 tribes held in esteem? It certainly seems to me that they were not righteous enough to deserve God’s protection.

  9. The Lost Ten Tribes(LTT’s)are just as important as anyone else. Jesus visited all his lost sheep around the whole world; on the isle’s of the sea; in the America’s and he visited the LTT’s. We know that they were still a distinct people hundreds of years after they were taken captive by the Assyrians because the Lord said he was going to visit them as a whole.

    Why are they important? Good question! The LTT’s were led by righteous men i.e their own prophets. the Lords visitation to them would have been recorded like every other record we have. When they return they will bring forth not only all their vast knowledge of the world but their scriptures which when combined with all the scriptures we have to day, will add another powerful testimony to our tenets, that Jesus is the Christ.

    If we love reading from the BOM; the D&C; and the pearl of great price, just imagine reading all about the LTT’s and their history.

    Just as important is the fact that we need to have 12,000 high priests from each tribe present at Adam-Ondi-Ahman ready to meet the Savior.

    Now think about it! Out of the 13 million current members of the church, where are we going to find 12,000 from each tribe to be at this important meeting where Christ comes to receive the keys back from Adam.
    These guys are going to be the most righteous of High Priest, and I don’t know about you but I’d say only about a quarter of all the HP’s might come close enough to be called to Adam-Ondi-Ahman. But the rest! I don’t think so. So it won’t be enough, especially as most of the church members are from either Ephraim or Manasseh.

    Therefore, it must needs bee that the ten tribes return and that their knowledge and lineage is of utmost importance to the Lord and his plans for the second coming.

    Oh and a final note: John the revelator/beloved is currently with the LTT’s now, just waiting for the Lords message to return. And when they do what a sight it will be. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

    I hope this little spiel of mine helped you!

    Kind regards,

    One of the Three Nephites!

  10. “The Lost Ten Tribes(LTT’s)are just as important as anyone else.

    No they’re more important–we have an article of faith dedicated to them, and no other group of people. The Bible seems to indicate they were a wicked people, so I have a hard time believing they were ever “led by righteous men i.e their own prophets because in the Bible, the Northern Kingdom is portrayed as wicked the entire time of their existence, which is why Assyria took over–they were ripe for destruction. Even the Nephites didn’t get to live on forever, but for some reason, the Bible seems to favor the 10 tribes, which makes God a respector of persons. I just don’t get it.

    Perhaps you’d like to see the latest post on a Lost tribe called the Lemba. I found some cool similarities with Lehi, and the DNA seems to be a closer match than anything we’ve found to date. Perhaps the lost 10 tribes can be discovered through DNA. Also, you may want to check out this post about a rabbi looking for the lost tribes. through DNA.

  11. Wow – that was a long time ago and I had forgotten about you and writing. Are you still there? By the way, I don’t think the name heritic is accurate. You just have questions that the rest of us have. My website is GeorgeMPeacock.com and both books given therein hopefully answer some of the questions that come to the sincere seeker who reads scripture and tries to answer the questions like “Why was this written, or why was it written this way? I’d love to talk more you could likely answer some of my questions. George @Mormon Heretic

  12. Dear Chris, The numbers in scripture are symbolic and give messages. The number twelve is truely one such. As you are aware, there are to be twelve deacons in a deacons quorum. How many in a teachers quorum? Ans. 24. How about a priest quorum? Ans. 48. Elders is 96. In your ward and others with which you may be famaliar, how literal is it with these. If the President of the Church passes, the quorum of the First Presidency is disolved and the counselors go back into the quorum of the twelve – thereby giving it more than twelve. BUT, the message of twelve is still there, not literally. In my book I discuss these numbers. I hope you would find them edifying. My website is GeorgeMPeacock.com and the book is titled “Unlocking the Numbers” George@Chris.

  13. George, thanks for stopping by, but you need to come more often than every 16 months! I reviewed your website, and those books sound very interesting–perhaps I should do a book review…. (I’ve reviewed many books here before.)

    I often feel like a heretic at church, primarily because I don’t believe in biblical literalism, and I think it is threatening to many church members. I read your book review, Did Jesus, for example, actually bleed from every pore in Gethsemane? Peacock insists this really didn’t happen, but was an idiomatic way of describing the suffering of the Savior in the Garden. Wow, I think you and I need to talk more. You sound a bit like a heretic to me (which I think is a good thing.)

    Some of his entries may not sit well with some. That’s how I feel at church! I think heretic fits me quite well. Since you’re not so much into biblical literalism, I wonder if you’d comment on my latest post on the Exodus. Check it out here.

  14. […] 2nd post ever on this blog was Why are the 12 Tribes of Israel important?  I’ve seen some interesting documentaries, one from a Jewish-atheist journalist, Simcha […]

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