Joseph – 12 Tribles of Israel

Joseph – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Joseph is not usually listed with the Hebrew tribes although Joseph is one of Jacobs twelve sons, the eldest of Rachel. It is sometimes referred to as the House of Joseph. Rather, the two tribes founded by his sons Ephraim and Manasseh are listed separately. This is so because, upon his death-bed, Jacob grants the privilege of the Hebrew first-born upon Joseph (Rachel’s eldest and not to Reuben who is Leah’s eldest). According to Torah law, the first born receives a “double portion” (pi sh’tayim) relative to his siblings. Thus Joseph is entitled to two tribes who will have rights to two portions of land in the Land of Israel. This also fits in with the fact that because the Levites do not receive any portion in the land (they are to tend to the service of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem) that when the Tribe of Levi is omitted, the number of tribes still comes to twelve. See Tribe of Ephraim, Tribe of Manassah.

Exile and Descendants

However, both the Tribe of Ephraim and the Tribe of Manassah are listed as part of the Lost Tribes of Israel that were exiled by the Assyrian Empire after they conquered the Kingdom of Israel some 2,700 years ago.

Some groups have claimed to be the descendents of the lost Tribes, namely the Tribe of Manassah. Groups known to have alleged ancestry with these groups are the Pathans (Pashtuns) of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the Mizos of the Indian states Mizoram and Manipur.


asher – 12 Tribles of Israel

Asher – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Asher In the Book of Genesis, Asher (אָשֵׁר, Standard Hebrew Ašer, Tiberian Hebrew is a son of Jacob and Zilpah, and the founder of the Tribe of Asher. Asher comes from Ashar meaning “happy”. Ashar is also a place in Palestine.

On his deathbed, Jacob blesses Asher by saying that his land would produce ‘rich bread’ and ‘dainties’ (Genesis 49:20).

The name Asher was inscribed in the Onyx stone. Asher means blessed, happy, prosper, straight, honest, go, guide, lead, and relieve. Onyx means fire/or splendor. Genesis 49:20 tells us that “Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties”. Truly the richness of Asher passed on to the generations and his children were blessed.


Manasseh – 12 Tribles of Israel

Manasseh – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Manasseh (Hebrew alphabet מְנַשֶּׁה, Samaritan Hebrew Manatch, from נשני naššānî  “who makes to forget” 

Manasseh is one of the Hebrew tribes, which the Bible claims was founded by Manasseh, the son of Joseph. They were associated with the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin during the wanderings in the wilderness, and encamped on the west side of the tabernacle. According to the census taken at Mount Sinai, this tribe then numbered 32,200 (Numbers 1:10, 35; 2:20, 21). Forty years afterwards its numbers had increased to 52,700 (26:34, 37), and it was at this time the most distinguished of all the tribes. The half of this tribe, along with Reuben and Gad, had their territory assigned them by Moses on the east of the Jordan (Joshua 13:7-14); but it was left for Joshua to define the limits of each tribe. This territory on the east of the River Jordan was more valuable and of larger extent than all that was allotted to the nine and a half tribes in the land of Palestine. It is sometimes called “the land of Gilead,” and is also spoken of as “on the other side of Jordan.” The portion given to the half tribe of Manasseh was the largest on the east of Jordan. It embraced the whole of Bashan. It was bounded on the south by Mahanaim, and extended north to the foot of Lebanon. Argob, with its sixty cities, that “ocean of basaltic rocks and boulders tossed about in the wildest confusion,” lay in the midst of this territory. The whole “land of Gilead” having been conquered, the two and a half tribes left their wives and families in the fortified cities there, and accompanied the other tribes across the Jordan, and took part with them in the wars of conquest. The allotment of the land having been completed, Joshua dismissed the two and a half tribes, commending them for their heroic service (Josh. 22:1-34). Thus dismissed, they returned over Jordan to their own inheritance. On the west of Jordan the other half of the tribe of Manasseh was associated with Ephraim, and they had their portion in the very center of Palestine, an area of about 1,300 square miles (3400 km²), the most valuable part of the whole country, abounding in springs of water. Manasseh’s portion was immediately to the north of that of Ephraim (Josh. 16). Thus the western Manasseh defended the passes of Esdraelon as the eastern kept the passes of the Hauran.

See also House of Joseph.


Dan – 12 Tribles of Israel

Dan – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Dan  (דָּן “Judge”, Standard Hebrew Dan, Tiberian Hebrew Dān) is one of the Hebrew tribes, which the bible claims was founded by Dan, son of Jacob and Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant (Genesis 30:4). The tribe originally settled in the central coastal area of the promised land (Joshua 19), in proximity to the area controlled by the Philistines. Samson, the legendary warrior against the Philistines, was said to be a member of this tribe. Later, the bible claims that the tribe moved to the northern part of the land (Judges 18), apparently due to military pressure by the Philistines. There, its principal settlement was Tel Dan. The move involved a religious act of defiance, when the Dan people installed their own independent legacy of Levite clergy. When Jeroboam led the revolt of the northern tribes and established the Kingdom of Israel, Dan was one of the tribes in it, and so would count as one of the Lost Tribes exiled by the Assyrians. The original territory of Dan, before the move to the north, is approximately the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv. Hence this metropolis is known in Hebrew as Gush Dan – the Dan area.

The Beta Israel, a group of Jews living in Ethiopia which was isolated from Israel until the 19th century claim to be descendants of the Tribe of Dan, though it is not clear how they got there.

The name of Dan means to judge, to minister judgment or to plead a cause. It is most significant that this name is engraved in the Beryl stone which represents a subduing or a breaking. Dan was to judge his own house as an equal, judge his tribe.


Naphtali – 12 Tribles of Israel

Naphtali – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Hebrew Tribe of Naphtali “My wrestling”, was founded by Naphtali, son of Jacob. On this tribe Jacob pronounced the patriarchal blessing, “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words” (Gen. 49:21). It was intended thus to set forth under poetic imagery the future character and history of the tribe.

At the time of the Exodus this tribe numbered 53,400 adult males (Num. 1:43), but at the close of the wanderings they numbered only 45,400 (26:48-50).

Along with Dan and Asher, they formed “the camp of Dan,” under a common standard (2:25-31), occupying a place during the march on the north side of the tabernacle.

The possession assigned to this tribe is set forth in Josh. 19:32-39. It lay in the north-eastern corner of the land, bounded on the east by the Jordan River and the lakes of Merom and Galilee, and on the north it extended far into Coele-Syria, the valley between the two Lebanon ranges. It comprehended a greater variety of rich and beautiful scenery and of soil and climate than fell to the lot of any other tribe. The territory of Naphtali extended to about 800 square miles (2072 kmē), being the double of that of Issachar. The region around Kadesh, its most prominent town, was originally called Galil, a name afterwards given to the whole northern division of Canaan.

Naphtali was the most powerful of the northern tribes: Deborah’s general Barak, who defeated Sisera, was a member of this tribe. Nevertheless, its remoteness made it subject to many other invasions throughout its history. Naphtali was also the first to suffer from the invasion of Benhadad, king of Syria, in the reigns of Baasha, king of Israel, and Asa, king of Judah (1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chr. 16:4). In the reign of Pekah, king of Israel, the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III swept over the whole north of Israel, and carried the people into captivity (2 Kings 15:29). Thus the kingdom of Israel came to an end (B.C. 722).


Levite – 12 Tribles of Israel

Levite – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Levite לוי “Attached”, Standard Hebrew Levi

LēwÓ is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. The Levites were the only one of the Israelite tribes who received cities but no tribal land when Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan. The Tribe of Levi served particular religious duties for the Israelites. In return, the landed tribes were expected to give tithe to the Levites. The tribe is named after Levi one of the twelve sons of Jacob (also called Israel.) Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Genesis 46:11).

Kohath’s son Amram was the father of both Moses and Aaron. The descendants of Aaron: the Kohanim (“Priests”), had the special role as priests in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and also in the Temple in Jerusalem. The remaining Levites (Levi’yim in Hebrew), divided into three groups (the descendents of Gershon, or Gershonites, the descendants of Kohath, or Kohathites, and the descendants of Merari, or Merarites) each filled different roles in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple services.  also see: Cohen

Levites and priests may have been responsible for stamping the LMLK seals on Judean storage jars during the reign of Hezekiah (circa 700 BC). The associated Personal seals on the same jars may have represented various courses of Levites overseeing the proper production of 10 percent for tithing in the same manner that modern rabbis (mashgihim) approve kosher wine (Grena, 2004, pp. 75-6).

Even today, Levites are considered to have additional rights and obligations compared to lay people. For instance, Kohanim are eligible to read the rolls of Torah first, followed by the Levites.

No property /  Priesthood

The significance of the tribe membership and the relation to the same ancestors have led Levite to adopt a common last name, to signify their title. Because of diverse geographical locations, the names have several variations:

Levi – Hebrew for “Levite”, common among Levites of Northern African and Middle Eastern origin


Judah – 12 Tribles of Israel

Judah – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Judah (Hebrew: יְהוּדָה, “Praise”; Standard Hebrew Yahuda, Tiberian Hebrew Yahudah) is one of the Hebrew tribes, founded by Judah, son of Jacob. Together with the Tribe of Benjamin, Judah formed the Southern Kingdom, also known confusingly as the Kingdom of Judah, when the kingdom was divided. These two tribes were thus not carried into captivity with the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, also known confusingly as the Kingdom of Israel, when it fell. This started the tradition (some say myth) of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. As Benjamin was always very much the minor partner, in time the tribe of Judah became identified with the entire Israelite nation, and even the entire Hebrew nation, and gave their name to the Jews, see Jews as Israelites. This entry incorporates text from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernization.

Tribe of Judah – Judah and his three surviving sons went down with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:12; Ex. 1:2). At the time of the Exodus, when we meet with the family of Judah again, they have increased to the number of 74,000 males (Num. 1:26, 27).

Its number increased in the wilderness (26:22). Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, represented the tribe as one of the spies (13:6; 34:19). This tribe marched at the van on the east of the tabernacle (Num. 2:3-9; 10:14), its standard, as is supposed, being a lion’s whelp. Under Caleb, during the wars of conquest, they conquered that portion of the country which was afterwards assigned to them as their inheritance. This was the only case in which any tribe had its inheritance thus determined (Josh. 14:6-15; 15:13-19).

The inheritance of the tribe of Judah was at first fully one-third of the whole country west of Jordan, in all about 2,300 square miles (Josh. 15). But there was a second distribution, when Simeon received an allotment, about 1,000 square miles, out of the portion of Judah (Josh. 19:9). That which remained to Judah was still very large in proportion to the inheritance of the other tribes. The boundaries of the territory are described in Josh. 15:20-63.


Benjamin – 12 Tribles of Israel

Benjamin – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Benjamin בִּנְיָמִין “Son of my right hand” but in some Rabbinical Judaism traditions “Son of the south”, Standard Hebrew Binyamin, Tiberian Hebrew Binyāmīn) is one of the Hebrew tribes, founded by Benjamin son of Jacob. The Book of Judges chapters 19 to 21 describes an episode in which all of the rest of Israel attacks and defeats the Benjamites in the battle at Gibeah, in retaliation following a disgraceful incident. To complete the defeat, all the civilians, including women and children, in the Benjamite towns and villages are then killed, and the other tribes vow that they will never allow their women to marry Benjamites ever again. However, so as to not exterminate a tribe of Israel, they then provide four hundred virgins, spoil from another town they have massacred, as wives to the Benjamites, and also allow them to raid a festival and carry off some of the women.

Later, when the Kingdom of Israel was divided, the tribe of Benjamin joined with the tribe of Judah to form the Kingdom of Judah, while the other tribes formed the reduced kingdom of Israel which was subsequently conquered and the people exiled. Benjamin was very much the minor partner, as the ruling House of David came from the far more numerous and powerful tribe of Judah. Thus it was the tribe of Judah who in time became identified with the entire people of the southerly Israelite kingdom, and gave their name to the Jews.

Benjamin was born in Bethlehem and was the last son of Jacob and Rachel. The birthing of Benjamin brought the death of his mother and in her final moments, Rachel (soul) called him ‘Benoni’ (son of my sorrow), but Israel (spirit) called him Benjamin, meaning the son of my right hand (Gen 35:18). Also means: in the widest sense of son (grandson, great-grandson, etc. thereby covering all generations to come). It was the bringing of Benjamin to Joseph in Egypt that released the provision of food to Israel (Jacob).


reuben – 12 Tribles of Israel

Reuben – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Reuben (רְאוּבֵן, Standard Hebrew) is one of the Hebrew tribes, founded by Reuben son of Jacob. At the Exodus numbered 46,500 male adults, from twenty years old and upwards (Num. 1:20, 21), and at the close of the wilderness wanderings they numbered only 43,730 (26:7). This tribe united with that of Gad in asking permission to settle in the “land of Gilead,” “on the other side of Jordan” (32:1-5). The lot assigned to Reuben was the smallest of the lots given to the trans-Jordanic tribes. It extended from the Arnon, in the south along the coast of the Dead Sea to its northern end, where the Jordan flows into it (Josh. 13:15-21, 23). It thus embraced the original kingdom of Sihon. Reuben is “to the eastern tribes what the Tribe of Simeon is to the western. ‘Unstable as water,’ he vanishes away into a mere Arabian tribe. ‘His men are few;’ it is all he can do ‘to live and not die.’ We hear of nothing beyond the multiplication of their cattle in the land of Gilead, their spoils of ‘camels fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand’ (1 Chr. 5:9, 10, 20, 21). In the great struggles of the nation he never took part. The complaint against him in the song of Deborah is the summary of his whole history. ‘By the streams of Reuben,’ i.e., by the fresh streams which descend from the eastern hills into the Jordan and the Dead Sea, on whose banks the Bedouin chiefs met then as now to debate, in the ‘streams’ of Reuben great were the ‘desires'”, i.e., resolutions which were never carried out, the people idly resting among their flocks as if it were a time of peace (Judg. 5:15, 16). Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine.

All the three tribes on the east of Jordan at length fell into complete apostasy, and the time of retribution came. God “stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria,” to carry them away, the first of the tribes, into captivity (1 Chr. 5:25, 26).


Issachar – 12 Tribles of Israel

Issachar – Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Tribe of Issachar (יִשָּׂשׁכָר “Reward; recompense”, Standard Hebrew  is one of the Hebrew tribes, which the Bible claims was founded by Issachar son of Jacob.

Traditionally, the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun were considered to have a symbiotic relationship, whereby Issachar would devote its time to the study and teaching of

Torah, and Zebulun would financially support Issachar. In exchange, Zebulun would receive a share in the spiritual reward for Issachar’s learning, which may be a mythological tale explaining a situation in which Zebulun was a tribute-paying vassal state of Isachar. In modern times, although the identity of Issachar and Zebulun are unknown, these terms are still used by those engaged in such a partnership.

The name of Issachar means reward or to hire for payment and was engraved upon the Topaz stone which was golden yellow and represents “to seek”. This tribe willingly accepted what was before them and with what they had. The children of Issachar were mighty men in David’s army and because of their ability to understand the times, all brethren heeded their command.