The tribes of Israel


August 20, 2022

The tribes of Israel or the Israelites were tribes that formed a nation in the southern Levant region. They established a kingdom that split into two kingdoms and later had to live under other powers. Later they started to be called Jews, along with whom a group of Samaritans also formed. According to the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, the Israelites consisted of twelve tribes.


According to the Bible, the Israelites descended from the patriarch Abraham. He made a covenant with God, who directed him to the land of Canaan and promised it as the place of residence for the nation formed by his descendants. His grandson Jacob, or Israel, had twelve sons, from whom descended the tribes of Israel. Because of the famine, Jacob and his sons settled in Egypt, where their people were later enslaved. Guided by God, the Israelites were freed, reaffirmed their covenant with God and received the laws of Moses, and again headed towards their promised land, which they conquered. The general view of scholars is that the Bible's description of the Israelites' slavery in Egypt and the conquest of the land of Canaan has not been supported by archaeological evidence, and scholars do not have the Israelites' only one understanding of the origin. The founding population of the Israelites consisted of related tribes, which researchers have suggested include Shasu nomads, sedentary Canaanites, and semi-nomads from outside the West Bank. Most researchers believe that the exodus narrative also has some kind of historical basis, and it has been suggested that the Israelites were joined by a small group from Egypt in the land of Canaan, from whose experiences it was born. The minority view considers the more traditional interpretation of the exodus to be historically reliable. The earliest known non-biblical source that mentions the nation of Israel is the Merenptah stele from the 13th century BC. Information about the stages of the nation's history begins to be on a more secure basis from the time of King David, i.e. around 1000 BC. since. The Israelites formed a united kingdom at the beginning, which was divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. In the 7th century BC. the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, the Israelites who lived there were partly forced to move to other parts of Assyria, and a population of foreign origin from other parts of Assyria was forcibly moved to its territory. The Israelites who remained in the territory of the Northern Kingdom formed the people of the Samaritans, which the Israelites in the area of ​​Judah considered to have mixed with the pagans and mixed their worship with the influences received from them. The relationship between the Samaritans and the Judeans was completely broken in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The Israelites of Judah and later Judea began to be called Jews.


The ancient Israelites were a group consisting of a combination of ethnicity and religion. During the formative stages of the Israelite settlement in the land of Canaan, they had hostile relations with both the Egyptian rulers and the Canaanites and were an isolated group from them, and this was a characteristic starting point for the emphasis of a distinctive ethnic identity. Later, the Israelites' own ethnic identity was strengthened by the conflict with the Philistines. In the ancient Middle East, religion was united with the tribe, and the Israelites also developed a belief in their own national god, with whom they as a people had a covenant. Religion was not only spirituality, but also tied to the group's cultural and ethnic identity. Based on archeological and biblical evidence, there was also worship of the gods of other nations among the Israelites in order to obtain additional protection.

Hebrews, Israelites and Jews

Hebrews, Israelites and Jews are all designations for the same people, but different