This “Lehi,” it seems, was of the tribe of Joseph, and dwelt at Jerusalem. The tribe of Joseph at Jerusalem! Go, study scripture-geography, ye ignorant fellows, before you send out another imposition, and make no more such foolish blunders!
—Origen Bacheler, 1838
Prior to departing for the desert, Jerusalem was where Lehi had “dwelt … all his days,” according to his son Nephi (1 Nephi 1:4). Lehi, therefore, not only lived in Jerusalem the year Zedekiah took the throne, but had grown up there, suggesting his family had settled there before he was born. Lehi, however, was not a “Jew” (or, more accurately for that time-period, “Judahite”) in the strict sense of the word. He was, in fact, a descendant of Joseph, as was a Jerusalem official, Laban, who plays a prominent role in Nephi’s narratives set in Jerusalem itself (see 1 Nephi 5:14, 16). Another man from Jerusalem, Ishmael, who ultimately accompanies Lehi into the desert wilderness of Arabia, was also from the house of Joseph, according to Joseph Smith, who had access to now lost documents relating to Lehi and his companions.
Since most of the other characters mentioned are Lehi’s and Ishmael’s family members, essentially every major character in the text turns out to be from a Northern tribe, and specifically from the house of Joseph. Not only are they Northerners, but they appear to be wealthy and successful, well-established elites in Jerusalem. Laban was, after all, a Jerusalem official, meanwhile Lehi had land and substantive wealth, which was left behind when he fled (see 1 Nephi 3:16).
This picture of wealthy Northerners living in Jerusalem ca. 600 bc was at odds with popular notions held about biblical history ca. 1830, as the quote at the beginning of this post makes clear. Yet it has been impressively confirmed by archaeological evidence. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was dramatically destroyed ca. 724–722 bc. Archaeologist Jeffrey R. Chadwick explains,
Though not directly reported in the Bible, a significant number of Israelites appear to have fled the doomed northern kingdom and migrated as refugees to Judah in the south, settling in Jerusalem and other cities of the southern kingdom. … This refugee movement has been demonstrated by archaeologists who excavated at Judean sites during the 1970s. They discerned unusually large population increases at Jerusalem and other locations from levels dating to the last quarter of the eighth century bc—the exact period of the Assyrian attacks on the northern kingdom.
These migrations, according to Chadwick, probably lasted until about 715 bc. Chadwick goes on to explain that these refugees settled in a region known as the Mishneh. “The Mishneh was a second, or additional, part of ancient Jerusalem, which began essentially as a refugee camp for the arrivals from the north after 724 bc but was eventually considered part of the city of Jerusalem proper.” When Hezekiah fortified the city in preparation for the Judah’s own battle with the Assyrians, the walls were expanded to include the Mishneh as part of the city. These Northern refugees thus settled down and became integrated into the social and economic systems in Jerusalem.
By the latter-portion of the 7th century bc, this area had become an upscale part of town, indicating that at least some of the descendants of the Northern refugees managed to prosper in Jerusalem. Chadwick writes,
Although the Mishneh area had begun as a refugee settlement in the eighth century bc … the nature of the Mishneh changed in the eighty years between the completion of Hezekiah’s wall in 701 bc and Josiah’s Passover festival of 622 bc…. By then the Mishneh had evolved into a rather upscale neighborhood, as evidenced by the fact that Huldah the prophetess and her husband, Shallum, the “keeper of the wardrobe” (i.e., the royal clothier), lived there (see 2 Kings 22:14, but beware that Mishneh is curiously translated as “college”).
Lehi, Laban, and Ishmael lived only a couple of generations after the refugees from the north had come and settled in the Mishneh. They were likely young men during the reign of Josiah, and could have capitalized on the expanding opportunities made available as that part of town transformed. In any event, the image painted in 1 Nephi of wealthy and elite persons from the house of Joseph living in Jerusalem in the 7th century bc appears to be validated.
 Origen Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York, 1838), 11.
 “Discourse By Apostle Erastus Snow,” Journal of Discourses 23: 184.
 Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Lehi’s House at Jerusalem and the Land of his Inheritance,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2004), 90–91.
 Chadwick, “Lehi’s House at Jerusalem,” 93.
 Chadwick, “Lehi’s House at Jerusalem,” 121.