Israel, tribes of

In the Bible, the 12 clans of the ancient Hebrew people, which were named for the sons of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali) and his wives, Leah and Rachel, and concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah.

The tribe of Levi did not receive land in the settlement of Canaan but instead was given the priestly office. To maintain the traditional number of 12 tribes, the line of Joseph was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In Israel's later history, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin formed a southern kingdom called Judah with its capital at Jerusalem, while the 10 northern tribes formed the kingdom of Israel. After being conquered by Assyria in 721 BC, the northern tribes were exiled from the kingdom and were assimilated by other peoples. Disappearing from history, they became known as the 10 lost tribes of Israel and remained part of Jewish folklore and eschatological beliefs. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin survived until Nebuchadrezzar's conquest of Judah in 586 BC, when many from the kingdom were exiled to Babylon.

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Universalium. 2010.

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