Tribes of Israel

Part I - Introductory Facts
Part II - Sons of Jacob [Names, Mothers, Birth Verses]
Part III - Prophecies about the 12 Tribes
Part IV - Marching Order of the Tribes

Part I - Introductory Facts about the 12 Tribes of Israel

Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac begot Jacob.

  • To be an Israelite by blood, a person must be a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jacob begot 12 sons who are listed herein in subsequent sections.

  • The 12 sons of Jacob are the patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
  • For example, Jacob's son Benjamin is the patriarch of the Tribe of Benjamin. Jacob's son Reuben is the patriarch of the Tribe of Reuben. And so forth.

Well-known descendants of certain Tribes

  • Tribe of Benjamin - King Saul, Paul the apostle [a.k.a. Saul of Tarsus]
  • Tribe of Levi - Moses, Aaron
  • Tribe of Judah - King David, King Solomon, many other kings; Lord Jesus, the Messiah

The Promised Land [Canaan], plus an area on the east side of the Jordan River, was allocated among the 12 Tribes. [Num 33.54; Num 36.3-9]

  • As the priestly Tribe, Levi was given no land. [Num 18.20, 18.24] Instead of land, God gave Levi the tithes of the people of Israel.
  • Jacob's son Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
  • By Jacob's command [Gen 48.5], Joseph's sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were regarded as de facto "Tribes" of Israel.
  • Thus, the land allocations of Joseph and Levi were given instead to Ephraim and Manasseh, preserving *twelve* as the number of tribes. [Josh 14.3-4]

There is no such thing as "10 lost tribes of Israel." [Mt 10.6, Acts 26.7, Jam 1.1, Rev 7.1-8; Ezek 37]

Part II Sons of Jacob [Names, Mothers, Birth Verses]

Sons of Jacob

Meaning of Name


Birth Verse

01-Reuben See, a son Leah So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, "The LORD has surely seen my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me." Gen 29.32
02-Simeon Hearing Leah Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also." And she called his name Simeon. Gen 29.33
03-Levi Joined; attached Leah She conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore his name was called Levi. Gen 29.34
04-Judah Yah be praised Leah And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Now I will praise Yahweh." Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing. Gen 29.35
05-Dan Judge Bilhah
(Rachel's servant)
Then Rachel said, "God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son." Therefore she called his name Dan. Gen 30.6
06-Naphtali My wrestling Bilhah
(Rachel's servant)
Rachel said, "With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed." So she called him Naphtali. Gen 30.6
07-Gad Troop; invader;
good fortune
(Leah's servant)
Then Leah said, "A troop comes!" So she called his name Gad. Gen 30.11
08-Asher Happy Zilpah
(Leah's servant)
Then Leah said, "I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed." So she called his name Asher. Gen 30.13
09-Issachar Man of hire Leah Leah said, "God has given me my hire [wages] because I have given my maid to my husband." So she called his name Issachar. Gen 30.18
10-Zebulun Dwelling Leah Leah said, " my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she called his name Zebulun. Gen 30.20b
11-Joseph Increaser Rachel So she called his name Joseph, and said, "The LORD shall add to me another son." Gen 30.24
12-Benjamin Son of the right hand Rachel As her soul was departing (for she died), she called his name Ben-Oni [son of my sorrow]; but his father called him Ben-Jamin. Gen 35.18

Part III - Prophecies about the 12 Tribes

Sons of Jacob

Jacob's Prophecies
Genesis 49.1-27

Moses' Blessings
Deuteronomy 33.6-25

01-Reuben Reuben, you are my firstborn, My might and the beginning of my strength, The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Unstable as water, you shall not excel, Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it -He went up to my couch. Let Reuben live, and not die, Nor let his men be few.
02-Simeon Simeon and Levi are brothers; Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob And scatter them in Israel. [Moses makes no mention of Simeon in blessing the tribes of Israel.]
03-Levi Of Levi he said: "Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one, Whom You tested at Massah, And with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah, Who says of his father and mother, 'I have not seen them'; Nor did he acknowledge his brothers, Or know his own children; For they have observed Your word And kept Your covenant. They shall teach Jacob Your judgments, And Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You, And a whole burnt sacrifice on Your altar. Bless his substance, LORD, And accept the work of his hands; Strike the loins of those who rise against him, And of those who hate him, that they rise not again."
04-Judah Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey's colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk. And this he said of Judah: "Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, And bring him to his people; Let his hands be sufficient for him, And may You be a help against his enemies."
05-Dan Dan shall judge his people As one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, A viper by the path, That bites the horse's heels So that its rider shall fall backward. I have waited for your salvation, O LORD! And of Dan he said: "Dan is a lion's whelp; He shall leap from Bashan."
06-Naphtali Naphtali is a deer let loose; He uses beautiful words. And of Naphtali he said: "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, And full of the blessing of the LORD, Possess the west and the south."
07-Gad Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him, But he shall triumph at last. And of Gad he said: "Blessed is he who enlarges Gad; He dwells as a lion, And tears the arm and the crown of his head. He provided the first part for himself, Because a lawgiver's portion was reserved there. He came with the heads of the people; He administered the justice of the LORD, And His judgments with Israel."
08-Asher Bread from Asher shall be rich, And he shall yield royal dainties. And of Asher he said: "Asher is most blessed of sons; Let him be favored by his brothers, And let him dip his foot in oil. Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; As your days, so shall your strength be."
09-Issachar "Issachar is a strong donkey, Lying down between two burdens; He saw that rest was good, And that the land was pleasant; He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, And became a band of slaves. And of Zebulun he said: "Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, And Issachar in your tents! They shall call the peoples to the mountain; There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness; For they shall partake of the abundance of the seas And of treasures hidden in the sand."
10-Zebulun Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea; He shall become a haven for ships, And his border shall adjoin Sidon.
11-Joseph Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), By the God of your father who will help you, And by the Almighty who will bless you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers. And of Joseph he said: "Blessed of the LORD is his land, With the precious things of heaven, with the dew, And the deep lying beneath, With the precious fruits of the sun, With the precious produce of the months, With the best things of the ancient mountains, With the precious things of the everlasting hills, With the precious things of the earth and its fullness, And the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come 'on the head of Joseph, & on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.' His glory is like a firstborn bull, And his horns like the horns of the wild ox; Together with them He shall push the peoples To the ends of the earth; They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, And they are the thousands of Manasseh."
12-Benjamin Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, And at night he shall divide the spoil. Of Benjamin he said: "The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him, Who shelters him all the day long; And he shall dwell between His shoulders."

Part IV - Marching Order of the Tribes

From Egypt to the Promised Land
Military Organization & Marching Order of Israel
Numbers Chapter 2

  North - last to break camp
Dan 62,700 | Asher 41,500
Naphtali 53,400 | Total 157,600
West - 3rd to break camp
Ephraim 40,500 | Manasseh 32200
Benjamin 35,400 | Total 108,100
Center - Tabernacle of Meeting
Levi unnumbered [Num 2.33]
East - 1st to break camp
Judah 74,600 | Issachar 54,400
Zebulun 57,400 | Total 186,400
  South - 2nd to break camp
Reuben 46,500 | Simeon 59,300
Gad 45,650 | Total 151,450


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