Twelve Tribes of Israel

The name "Israel" is the name God used to rename "Jacob"


The order of Jacob's children (listed by mother)

(Jacob's first wife)

1. Reuben (Born first, he inherited the family birthright, but later lost it)
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
5. Issachar
6. Zebulun

7. Dinah

RACHEL (Jacob's second wife, his favorite)

1. Joseph, (Jacob gave him the family birthright after he saved the family)

1. Manasseh
2. Ephraim (Inherited the family birthright following Jacob's blessing)

2. Benjamine


BILHAH (Rachel's slave girl)

1. Dan,
2. Naphtali

ZILPAH (Leah's slave girl)

1. Gad
2. Asher

Jacob (Israel) fell in love with Rachel and wanted to marry her, but her father Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his older daughter, Leah, first.

Later Jacob was able to marry his first choice (Rachel). She was always his favorite (the woman he loved); and her son Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. Jealous of this, his other brothers (the other tribes of Israel as it were) sold Joseph into slavery. In slavery, Joseph was taken to Egypt and later became the overseer of all the grain in Pharaoh's storehouse. A famine threatened to wipe out the family of Jacob and they went to Egypt seeking food. There they found Joseph. He forgave his brothers and was reunited with his birth family.

The order of Jacob's children and grandchildren (listed by date of birth)

01. Reuben (Born first, he inherited the family birthright, but later lost it to Joseph)
02. Simeon
03. Levi
04. Judah
05. Dan
06. Naphtali
07. Gad
08. Asher
09. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Joseph
12. Benjamine
13. Dinah (Girls were not eligible for tribal status)

14. Manasseh
15. Ephraim (The birthright passed to him from Joseph through Israel's blessing)

Final order of The Twelve Tribes of Israel (by birthdate)

01. Reuben
02. Simeon
03. Judah
04. Dan
05. Naphtali
06. Gad
07. Asher
08. Issachar
09. Zebulun
10. Benjamine
11. Manasseh
12. Ephraim

Non-land-owning Tribes

00. Levi (This tribe elevated to form the Priesthood of the country)
00. Joseph (Elevated to "Patriarch" status by Jacob (Israel).

The Four Patriarchs

01. Abraham
02. Isaac
03. Jacob (Israel)
04. Joseph



Because he saved the family, Jacob took the birthright from Simeon (who had sold Joseph into slavery) and gave it to Joseph. Jacob made Joseph a patriarch like himself by adopting Joseph's two sons giving them equal status with his own sons, i.e., adding them to the 12 tribes of Israel.

Each of these 12 sons was the eponym of a tribe of Isrealites. Though to be more accurate, Joseph was the ancestor of 2 tribes, of which his sons were the eponyms.

Just before he died, Jacob decreed Joseph's younger son, Ephraim to be greater than his older brother Manasseh. When Joseph tried to tell Jacob (Israel now) that he was giving the greater blessing to the youngest, Israel told him,

"I know, my son, I know. He (Manasseh) too shall become a people; he too shall be great. Yet his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." (Genesis 48:19-20).

In this way the lineage of Israel passed down from Joseph through Ephraim. It did not go to Judah.

After blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, Israel called his other sons in and told them what lay in store for them in the future. To Judah part of what he said was this:

"The sceptre shall not pass from Judah nor the mace from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, to whom the peoples shall render obedience." (Genesis 49:10).

There are important allegories in this sequence. We have listed them all in our previous writings, especially Joseph's symbolic relationship with Christ and divine food.

Another important allegory relates to Ephraim and Manasseh. They stand for the second generation of the tribes of Israel: i.e., what they evolved to under Christ. These two represent the two houses of Israel. The younger (Ephraim) represents the Christians and Manasseh, the older of the two, represents the Jews. The birthright passed to the Christians through Ephraim by spiritual symbolism. They obeyed God and accepted His King. The result was an enormous quantity of Christian nations.

This allegory (Ephraim & Manasseh) talks to us in today's terms. We do not see twelve tribes nowadays because most are invisible. But we do see an Israel divided into two houses (Christians and Jews).

Judah became the base of power as far as the tribes of Israel were concerned (the sceptre was put in the hands of Judah and the mace between his feet). It was a power made visible in Solomon's and Herod's temples. But, as the prophecy said, that power belonged to another; the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was born into the tribe of Judah just as Israel's blessing predicted. The prophecy shows that the sceptre belonged to Him. Jesus is King of all mankind. As predicted, His people have become a multitude of nations.

With the physical rebuilding of Jerusalem as the signal to return, both houses of Israel are being called back to the Holy Land in a great ingathering that will encompass (in symbolism) all the tribes of Israel.

So it is not just the Jews who are being called back to Jerusalem. It is all the tribes of Israel. This is the ingathering that will bring all Christians and all Jews to the Holy Land for the Second Appearance of Jesus Christ. All the nations will gather there as well because it is the time of the Judgement.

Many people say that the Jews are God's favorites, but nowhere in the Bible is this stated. In fact, just the opposite. Almost every book in scripture from the Torah to the Book of Revelation testifies that God has no favorites.

Jesus said it is behavior that determines the people of God.



At an assembly held in Shiloh, Joshua cast lots before the gathered tribes, and there according to the way the lots fell, Joshua apportioned the land among the Israelites according to their groupings. These 12 tribes were descended from the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), borne of 2 wives, sisters Leah and Rachel, and 2 slave-wives given to him by the two sisters.

Rachel remained barren,
so God opened the womb of Leah first. Leah conceived and gave birth to a son whom she named Reuben. Soon thereafter she also gave birth to Simeon, Levi and Judah. Rachel, seeing that she herself gave Jacob no offspring, became jealous of her sister Leah who had quickly produced four children for Jacob. So she gave her slave-girl, Bilhah to her husband as a wife that she might have a child through her. Bilhah gave birth to Dan and then Naphtali. Leah did the same, giving her slave-girl (Zilpah) to Jacob who conceived first Gad and then Asher. Afterward, Leah herself conceived Issachar, Zebulun and a daughter, Dinah. Finally, God remembered Rachel, Jacob's favorite, bringing Joseph to birth in her womb. After that, Rachel conceived Benjamin as well, bringing Jacob's male progeny to twelve.

When Jacob's sons reached early manhood, they became jealous of Joseph who was his father's favorite. They kidnapped him, and sold him to a caravan headed for Egypt. Living in the land of Egypt, Joseph became very important and powerful, overseeing all of Pharaoh's graineries. When a great famine swept the Middle East, Egypt remained fully stocked with food on account of Joseph's brilliant skill and foresight.

Knowing that Egypt had ample food, Jacob gathered his children and wives together and took them there to seek bread so that they not starve to death. Once there he discovered his missing long-lost favorite son. Joseph held no grudge against his brothers. He welcomed them all with open arms and gave them as much as they wanted to eat. As a reward for his generosity and love, Jacob adopted Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manesseh, and blessed them that they might also share in the tribal legacy God had promised Jacob concerning his twelve sons.

Because Joseph had borne two of the twelve, he became a patriarch himself, rising to a level above his brothers. He was accorded a position of supreme honor, joining Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the progenitors of the twelve tribes. For this reason, he is not counted among the landowners.

Jacob's third son, Levi, was removed from landowning status as well, for it was in this tribe that the priesthood of Israel was formed. The Levites became the caretakers of the religion. That is why neither Joseph nor Levi have their names ascribed to geographical areas on the map above.

Dan was first given land in an area that looked on Joppa, east of Benjamin. However, the Philistines resisted them there, blocking their efforts to capture the towns awarded to them in the original inheritance of the tribes. So the descendants of Dan headed north to a city called Leshem. Capturing this city, they renamed it 'Dan' after their ancestor, and settled there instead. This city proved to be the northernmost boundary of the land of Israel, stretching from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.


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