The 12 Tribes of Israel
Asher was the eighth son of Jacob, and the second of Jacob's two sons by Zilpah, Leah's maid. The other son by Zilpah was Gad. When Jacob blesses his 12 sons in Genesis, chapter 49, he said that Asher would have a life blessed with an abundance of food and delicacies befitting a king (Genesis 49:20). Asher made the journey with Jacob and the family from Padan Aram to Canaan, and then later to Egypt. The Tribe of Asher increased in size from 41,500 to 53,400 adult males during the span of two censuses described in the Book of Numbers.
In Deuteronomy 33:1 and Deuteronomy 24-25, Moses, in his blessing, also predicted prosperity for the Tribe of Asher. The Tribe of Asher failed to drive out the inhabitants of Phoenician towns in the area of Israel that the tribe had been allotted as its inheritance (Judges 1:27). In the Song of Deborah, which is featured in Judges, chapter 5, the Tribe of Asher is reprimanded for not helping out during the struggle against a Canaanite king (Judges 5:17).
The tribe, however, did participate in the expulsion of the Midianites and Amalekites from the Plain of Jezreel. In Revelation 7:7, Asher is among the Tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of their members. The name Asher means "happy."
Benjamin, was the twelfth and youngest son of Jacob. His mother was Rachel, Jacob's wife. Benjamin was born during the journey that Jacob and his family took from Padan Aram to Canaan. His mother Rachel named him "Ben-oni," meaning "Son of my sorrow," before she died during the childbirth, but Jacob called him Benjamin. Joseph, Benjamin's brother was sold into slavery by his other brothers.
Joseph later became prime minister of Egypt, and when Joseph's brothers refused to abandon Benjamin, after Joseph put them to a test, Joseph realized his brothers had a change of heart and were willing to risk their lives for their youngest brother. Through this test, the whole family of Jacob was joyously reunited.
When Jacob blesses his 12 sons, in Genesis 49, he describes Benjamin as a wolf that prowls, devouring his enemies in the morning and dividing up the spoils in the evening. (Genesis 49:27). King Saul, and Judge Ehud, were descendants of Benjamin, as was Paul and the prophet Jeremiah.
After the division of the Kingdom, the land of Benjamin served as a buffer zone between Israel and Judah. The name Benjamin means "Son of my right hand."
Dan was the fifth son of Jacob, and the first of Bilhah, who was Jacob's concubine and the maid of Rachel, who was Jacob's wife (Genesis 30:1-6). Dan traveled with Jacob and the family from Padan Aram to Canaan, and then later to Egypt. When Jacob blessed his sons in Genesis 49:16-18, it is stated that Dan would provide justice for his people.
The Tribe of Dan is reprimanded in the Bible's Song of Deborah for not participating in the war against the Canaanites. (Judges 5:17). The Tribe of Dan failed to conquer the portion of the land of Israel that was given to them as their original inheritance. That failure forced the tribe to move north, where it took over the land called Laish, renaming it Dan (Joshua 19:47). That became the northern limit of Israel. King Jeroboam I built a pagan temple in the land of Dan and set up a golden calf to be worshiped (1 Kings 12:29).
That tragic sin prompted the prophet Amos to include the land of Dan in his denouncement of pagan worshippers, that they shall fall and never rise again (Amos 8:14). The Tribe of Dan is not mentioned as one of the tribes to have 12,000 members promised the Seal of God in Revelation 7:7. The name Dan means "to judge" or "vindicate."
There are at least two people in the Bible named Gad. One was a prophet and the other was one of the 12 sons of Jacob.
Gad, the son of Jacob, was the seventh son of Jacob. His mother was Zilpah, who was Leah's maid. He was the founder of the tribe of Gad. He made the journey with Jacob and the family from Padan Aram to Canaan, and later, to Egypt. In the census taken in the second year after the Exodus, the tribe of Gad numbered 46,650 (Numbers 2: 14-15).
At the time of the second census, there were 40,500 (Numbers 26:18). In the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:19) it is said, "Gad a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last." In the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:20), it is said, "Blessed is he who enlarges Gad.". In Revelation 7:7, Gad is among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of its members.
The other Gad - the prophet - first appears in the Bible to persuade David to leave his place of safety in Moab and return to Judah, where the insanely jealous King Saul awaited him. later on, after David had a census taken of Israel, Gad gave David a choice of punishments from the Lord for carrying out that rash act. David chose the three day plague.
During the plague, which took 70,000 lives, Gad, the prophet, told David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam. 24:18). The burnt offerings from this altar, caused the Lord to stop the plague. The threshing floor, later, became the site of King Solomons Temple. In 2 Chronicles 29:25, Gad, along with David and the prophet Nathan, "stationed the Levite's in the Lord's house with cymbals, harps and lyres", according to the prescriptions "from the Lord through His prophets." Gad is described as David's seer in 1 Chronicles 21:9.
The name Gad means Gad "Good fortune."
Issachar was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Leah, who also gave birth to Reuben, Judah, Simeon, Levi and Zebulun. Issachar is the ancestor of the Tribe of Issachar. When Jacob blessed his sons, in Genesis 49, Issachar was described as a beast of burden who would submit to forced labor. (Genesis 49:14-15). Isaachar's name is often linked together with Zebulun, his brother.
In the Song of Deborah, Issachar is mentioned in a favorable light in regards to the tribe's battles with the Canaanites. One of the Judges of Israel, named Tola, was from the region of Israel that was named after Issachar. During the era in which David was king, the Tribe of Issachar gained a reputation for its wise men. In Revelation 7:7 Issachar is among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of its members. The name Issachar means "there is a reward."
Joseph, a son of Jacob/Israel
Joseph was one of 12 sons of Jacob. He was the first born son of Rachel (Gen 30:22-24). He received preferential treatment which angered his ten older brothers. His brothers faked his death to their father Jacob, and sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders who were on their way to Egypt. God gave Joseph the power to interpret dreams, and when the Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams, Joseph was brought before the Pharaoh, and interpreted his dreams, of seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine (Gen 41:8-32).
Joseph also suggested how to put this foreknowledge to good use, by storing produce in warehouses. Pharaoh charged Joseph, then at age thirty the rank and authority of a viceroy. When the famine came, it effected Canaan whereupon Jacob sent all his sons, except for Benjamin, to Egypt to buy food. Joseph broke down on seeing his brothers (they did not recognize him at first), gave them food, and eventually had his entire family move to Egypt to live.
Jacob's family of seventy people traveled to Egypt, and multiplied into a few million before Moses led them out. Joseph had two sons by his Egyptian wife (Asenath), Manasseh and Ephraim. Joseph died at age 110, his body was embalmed in Egypt, and his bones returned to Canaan in the Exodus. The name Joseph means "May God increase."
Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel
Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Leah, who also gave birth to Reuben, Levi, Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun. Judah was the founder of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel. A region of Israel, which included the city of Jerusalem, was named after Judah. In fact, Judah became the name of the southern kingdom when Israel divided into two kingdoms about 2900 years ago.
Judah played a role in saving the life of his brother Joseph. When Joseph's brothers had plotted to leave Joseph in a pit to die, Judah convinced his brothers to sell Joseph to Ishmaelites, rather than letting him die. (Genesis 37:26-28). Judah is shown to be the leader of his brothers in Genesis, chapters 43, 44, and 46.
The ancestry of Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, is traced back to Judah. So is the ancestry of King David. In Jacob's blessing of his 12 sons, in Genesis 49, he described Judah as a lion cub, saying that he would have his hand on the necks of his enemies and that he would be praised by his brothers.
Jacob's blessing of Judah, in Genesis 49:8-12, includes a passage that is traditionally understood by Christians to mean that Judah's descendants would rule over the land of Israel, culminating with Jesus. In Revelation 7:7, Judah is at the top of the list of the tribes receiving the Seal of God for 12,000 of its members. The name Judah means "to praise."
Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Leah, who also gave birth to Reuben, Judah, Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun. Levi is the ancestor of the Tribe of Levi.
The Tribe of Levi was not included in the tribes who were given allotments of land during the conquest of Canaan, when the nation of Israel was first established. Instead, Moses singled out the Tribe of Levi to serve as the nation's priests.
Instead of a land allotment, Joshua, who led the conquest of Canaan, gave 48 towns, scattered throughout the land of Israel, to the Tribe of Levi. The descendants of Levi played a roll in guarding and serving the tabernacle (Numbers 3:21-37). Moses and his brother, Aaron, were descendants of Levi.
In Revelation 7:7 Levi is among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of their members.
Naphtali was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Bilhah, who was a servant to Rachel, who was Jacob's wife. Bilhah also gave birth to Jacob's son Dan. Naphtali was the founder of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel. A region in northern Israel was given his name, near the Sea of Galilee. When Jacob blesses his sons in Genesis 49, he describes Naphtali as a deer that has been set free. (Genesis 49:21).
The Concordia Self-Study Bible NIV suggests that maybe Naphtali was described in this way because of his independent spirit. Some important people in the Bible are from the region of Naphtali. Barak, who commanded the armies with Deborah, was from the region of Naphtali (Judges 4:6).
The Tribe of Naphtali is praised for bravery in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:18) in defeating Sisera and the Canaanites. When David became king over all of Israel, the tribe of Naphtali joined David in the town of Hebron with a large army. Jesus started His ministry in Naphtali, in the area of Galilee, and calls His first disciples from its shores (Matthew 4:13-22).
In Revelation 7:7, Naphtali is among the tribes who are promised the seal of God for 12,000 of their members.
The name Naphtali means "My struggle."
Reuben was the first child of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the tribe of Reuben. When the Bible lists the names of Jacob's 12 sons, Reuben's is listed first. But Reuben lost the privileges that traditionally were given to first-born sons because he had an affair with Bilhah, who was his father's concubine (Genesis 35:22). Reuben, however, is noted for some good things.
He intervened with his brothers to spare Joseph's life in Genesis 37:21-30.
He also offered his own sons as surety for Benjamin's safety in Genesis 42:37. The Bible has other details about Reuben and the tribe of Reuben: Reuben followed his father, Jacob, as the family traveled from Padan Aram to Canaan, and then later to Egypt.
His descendants took part in Korah's revolt against Moses as described in Numbers 16:1-3. And the loss of life from that rebellion helps to explain why the population of the Tribe of Reuben dropped from 46,500, to 43,730 during the time between the two censuses that were taken in Numbers 1:21 and Numbers 26:7.
In Revelation 7:7, the tribe of Reuben is listed among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of their members.
The name Reuben means "see a son."
Simeon is the second son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the tribe of Simeon. When ten of the sons of Jacob went to Egypt from Canaan to buy food during a famine, Simeon was imprisoned by Joseph as a guarantee that Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother, would be brought to him (Genesis 42 and 43). Simeon and Levi killed the people of Shechem to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah.
Jacob rebuked them for the murders, and sharply criticized them in his last words before his death (Genesis 49:5-6).
In Revelation 7:7, Simeon is among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of their members.
The name Simeon means "God has heard."
Zebulun was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Leah, who also gave birth to Reuben, Judah, Simeon, Levi and Issachar. Zebulun is the ancestor of the Tribe of Zebulun. The tribe played an important role in the victory against Sisera's army at the brook of Kishon, and in Gideon's victory against the Midianites. One of the Judges of Israel, named Elon, and the prophet Jonah came from Zebulun. The tribe was renowned as seafarers.
In Revelation 7:7, Zebulun is among the tribes who are promised the Seal of God for 12,000 of their members.
The name Zebulun means "Gifts."