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What Are the 12 Tribes of Israel?

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Tribes of Israel Map

Tribes of Israel Map

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Question: What Are the 12 Tribes of Israel?
Answer: The land of ancient Israel was divided into 11 sections corresponding with 11 of the 12 tribes, which are based on the 12 sons and grandsons of Jacob (renamed 'Israel'). There is an inconsistency, though, since one of the sons/tribes was not assigned land, yet there are still 12 tribes.
· Historical Maps of Israel

Jacob had two wives and two concubines by whom he had 12 sons and a daughter. Jacob's favorite wife was Rachel who bore him Joseph. Jacob was quite open about his preference for Joseph, the prophetic dreamer, above all others. Joseph's brothers were jealous, sold Joseph into slavery, covered his coat of many colors with animal blood, which they then showed to Jacob, and ultimately led to the movement of the Hebrews into Egypt.

· When Was the Exodus?

Just before Jacob died, he pronounced benedictions and maledictions with predictions on the future to each of his sons.

- Judah was assigned the role of leader.

- Jacob predicted Zebulun would live by the coast.

- Three of the sons, Reuben (the first-born), Simeon and Levi were scolded;

the last two for their massacre of the people of Shechem. Their sister Dinah had been raped by a man of Shechem and Simeon and Levi had exacted what they considered appropriate revenge. Reuben was criticized for sleeping with one of his father's concubines. As punishment, Levi was not assigned a territory, but each of the other brothers was.

- This should mean 11 tribes, but Joseph received two portions (which should have been the right of the eldest legitimate son), one in the name of each of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

The "sons" and tribe names are:

Eastern

· Judah
· Issachar
· Zebulun

Southern

· Reuben
· Simeon
· Gad

Western

· Ephraim
· Manesseh
· Benjamin

Northern

· Dan
· Asher
· Naphtali

Although Levi was dishonored by being denied territory, the tribe of Levi became the highly honored priestly tribe of Israel. It won this honor because of its reverence for Yahweh during the Exodus.

See The Twelve Tribes of Israel, from Jewish Virtual Library

Lost Tribe Found?

Recent work in DNA has revealed genetic relationships previously considered unknowable. Tutankhamen's DNA showed he is probably the son of Akhenaten. Now BBC News reports, in Lost Jewish tribe 'found in Zimbabwe' (March 6, 2010), that a group in Zimbabwe, which has Semitic DNA, may be the lost tribe.

Index of Ancient Israel FAQs

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