1 Nephi 5:14. Lehi’s Tribal Affiliation
Since genealogies were very important in ancient Israel, how is it that an Lehi did not know his tribal affiliation until reading the record on the brass plates of Laban (1 Nephi 5:14)?
It was the extended family, not the tribe, that was the most important family unit in ancient Israel. More important, there is evidence from the Bible itself that people were not totally aware of their genealogy (Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64). We do not know the tribal affiliation of Elijah, one of the more important prophets in the Bible. Lehi’s ancestors, in order to better blend into the Kingdom of Judah (he did, after all, live in the land of Jerusalem) probably did not make a big deal of their ancestry, and later generations may have come to assume that they were of Judah, Benjamin, Levi or Simeon, the tribes that comprised the southern kingdom of Judah.[i] There is absolutely nothing implausible in the Book of Mormon account concerning Lehi’s genealogy.
[i] Nephi wrote, “I have charity for the Jew-I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came” (2 Nephi 33:8). In his preface to 1 Nephi and in 1 Nephi 3:3 and 5:6, 12, he called the brass plates of Laban “the record of the Jews,” though Laban, like Lehi, was a descendant of Joseph (1 Nephi 5:16). He also wrote, “And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews” (2 Nephi 30:4). See also 1 Nephi 1:2; 2 Nephi 25:2, 5-6.