Tribes of Israel

The tribes of Israel are descendants of the sons of Jacob, who is renamed Israel in Genesis 32.28.  The names of the sons/tribes are given in various lists in the Bible. But the tribes that received an inheritance in the promised land and therefore became political entities are listed below.  Following the main table are some other groupings of the sons of Israel that may be helpful.

12 Tribes of Israel Map

 

1

Reuben

2

Simeon

 

Levi – Belong to the Lord*

3

Judah

4

Dan

5

Naphtali

6

Gad

7

Asher

8

Issachar

9

Zebulun

 

Joseph**

10

Ephriam of Joseph

11

Manasseh of Joseph

12

Benjamin

 * Levi receives no allotment because they are the priestly clan.  They are allocated "Cities of Refuge" and the surrounding land within each of the other tribal allotments.

** Joseph receives the double portion as Israel adopts Joseph's sons and they are each granted allotments.

 

 

The Sons of Israel in order of their birth. 

 

 

Leah

Zilpah,
Leah's Maid

Rachael

Bilhah,
Rachael's Maid

1 Reuben      
2 Simeon      
3 Levi      
4 Judah      
5       Dan
6       Naphtali
7   Gad    
8   Asher    
9 Issachar      
10 Zebulun      
11     Joseph  
12     Benjamin  

 

The Sons of Israel in order of Birth

 

No. Name

Meaning

Mother Birth Story Prophecy (Genesis 49)
1 Reuben See, a son; but sounds like “he has seen my misery" Leah Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now."  (Genesis 29.32) 3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn,
       mymight, the first sign of my strength,
       excelling in honor, excelling in power.

    4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
       for you went up onto your father's bed,
       onto my couch and defiled it.

2 Simeon

one who hears

Leah She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon. (Genesis 29.33)     5 "Simeon and Levi are brothers—
       their swords are weapons of violence.

    6 Let me not enter their council,
       let me not join their assembly,
       for they have killed men in their anger
       and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.

    7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
       and their fury, so cruel!
       I will scatter them in Jacob
       and disperse them in Israel.

3

Levi attached Leah Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi. (Genesis 29.34)

4

Judah praise Leah She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the LORD ." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. (Genesis 29.35) 8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you;
       your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
       your father's sons will bow down to you.

    9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
       you return from the prey, my son.
       Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
       like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

    10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
       nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
       until he comes to whom it belongs
       and the obedience of the nations is his.

    11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
       his colt to the choicest branch;
       he will wash his garments in wine,
       his robes in the blood of grapes.

 12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
       his teeth whiter than milk. 

5 Dan

he has vindicated

Bilhah - Rachael 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, "God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son." Because of this she named him Dan. (Genesis 30.4, 5) 16 "Dan will provide justice for his people
       as one of the tribes of Israel.

    17 Dan will be a serpent by the roadside,
       a viper along the path,
       that bites the horse's heels
       so that its rider tumbles backward.

6 Naphtali

my struggle

Bilhah - Rachael 7 Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, "I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won." So she named him Naphtali. (Genesis 30.7, 8) 21 "Naphtali is a doe set free
       that bears beautiful fawns.
7 Gad good fortune or a troop Zilpah - Leah 9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, "What good fortune!" So she named him Gad.  (Genesis 30.9-11)  19 "Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
       but he will attack them at their heels.
8 Asher

happy

Zilpah - Leah 12 Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, "How happy I am! The women will call me happy." So she named him Asher. (Genesis 30.12, 13) 20 "Asher's food will be rich;
       he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
9 Issachar

sounds like reward

Leah 17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband." So she named him Issachar. (Genesis 30.17, 18)  14 "Issachar is a rawboned donkey
       lying down between two saddlebags.

    15 When he sees how good is his resting place
       and how pleasant is his land,
       he will bend his shoulder to the burden
       and submit to forced labor.

10  Zebulun probably means honor Leah 19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, "God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons." So she named him Zebulun. (Genesis 30.19, 20)  13 "Zebulun will live by the seashore
       and become a haven for ships;
       his border will extend toward Sidon.
11  Joseph

may he add

Rachael 22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "God has taken away my disgrace." 24 She named him Joseph, and said, "May the LORD add to me another son."  (Genesis 30.22-24)  22 "Joseph is a fruitful vine,
       a fruitful vine near a spring,
       whose branches climb over a wall.

    23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
       they shot at him with hostility.

    24 But his bow remained steady,
       his strong arms stayed limber,
       because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
       because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

    25 because of your father's God, who helps you,
       because of the Almighty,  who blesses you
       with blessings of the heavens above,
       blessings of the deep that lies below,
       blessings of the breast and womb.

    26 Your father's blessings are greater
       than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
       than the bounty of the age-old hills.
       Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
       on the brow of the prince among  his brothers.

 
12  Benjamin Ben-Oni means son of my trouble

Benjamin means son of my right hand

Rachael 16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, "Don't be afraid, for you have another son." 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.  But his father named him Benjamin. (Genesis 35.16-18)  27 "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
       in the morning he devours the prey,
       in the evening he divides the plunder."

 

Links:

http://www.catholic-resources.org/Bible/History-12Tribes.htm 12/7/09