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The Twelve Tribes of Israel ( he, שבטי ישראל, translit=Shivtei Yisrael, lit=Tribes of Israel) are, according to
Abrahamic religious texts
Abrahamic religious texts
, the descendants of the biblical
patriarch The highest-ranking bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Or ...
Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب, Yaʿqūb; gr, Ἰακώβ, Iakṓb), later given the name Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State ...

Jacob
, also known as Israel, through his twelve sons by various women, who collectively form the
Israelite nation
Israelite nation
. Within ancient Judaism, one's tribal affiliation had a great impact on his or her practices and opportunities, as some tribes enjoyed privileges others did not and some tribes received more blessings than others. Some modern scholars dispute whether there ever were (exactly) twelve Israelite tribes, and think that the
number 12
number 12
more likely signifies a symbolic
invented tradition "Ancient" Scottish clan tartans are an example of an invented tradition created in the 19th century. Invented traditions are cultural practices which are perceived as traditional, arising from the people, and of immemorial antiquity, but which in ...
as part of a national
founding myth An origin myth is a myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or supernatural humans. ...
.


Biblical narrative


Genealogy

Jacob, later called Israel, was the second-born son of
Isaac Isaac, ''Isaák''; ar, إسحٰق/إسحاق, ; am, ይስሐቅ is one of the three patriarchs The highest-ranking bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is gener ...

Isaac
and
Rebecca Rebecca, ; SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, ...

Rebecca
, the younger twin brother of
Esau Esau ''Ēsaû''; la, Hesau, Esau; ar, عِيسَوْ ''‘Īsaw''; meaning "hairy"Easton, M. ''Illustrated Bible Dictionary'', (, , 2006, p. 236 or "rough".Mandel, D. ''The Ultimate Who's Who in the Bible'', (.), 2007, p. 175 is the elder son o ...

Esau
, and the grandson of
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenan ...

Abraham
and
Sarah Sarah (; ar, سَارَة ) born Sarai ( ''Sāray'') is a biblical matriarch and prophetess In religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, ...

Sarah
. According to biblical texts, he was chosen by
God In monotheism, monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, creator, and principal object of Faith#Religious views, faith.Richard Swinburne, Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Ted Honderich, Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxfo ...
to be the patriarch of the Israelite nation. From what is known of Jacob, he had two wives, sisters
Leah Leah ''La'ya;'' from wikt:𒀖, () is an important figure in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the unloved wife of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. Leah was Jacob's first wife, and the older sister of his second (and favored) wife Rachel. She is the ...
and
Rachel Rachel () was a Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Rastafari and others. It appears in the form ...

Rachel
, and two concubines, sisters
Bilhah Bilhah ( "unworried", ''Bilha'', ''Bilhâ'') is a woman mentioned in the .For the etymology, see describes her as 's , who was given to to be her handmaid on Rachel's marriage to . When Rachel failed to have children, Rachel gave Bilhah to Jaco ...

Bilhah
and
Zilpah In the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew s ...
, by whom he had at least thirteen children. Though it is possible he may have had more sons and daughters than what is recorded in surviving texts, only twelve sons would form the basis for the twelve tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Jacob was known to display favoritism among his children, particularly for Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of his favorite wife, Rachel, and so the tribes themselves were not treated equally in a divine sense. Joseph, despite being the second-youngest son, received double the inheritance of his brothers, treated as if he were the firstborn son instead of Reuben, and so his tribe was later split into two tribes, named after his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.


Sons and tribes

The
Israelites The Israelites (; ) were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchic peri ...

Israelites
were the twelve sons of the
biblical patriarch The patriarchs ( he, אבות ''Avot'' or ''Abot'', singular he, אב ''Ab (Semitic), Ab'') of the Bible, when narrowly defined, are Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob, also named Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites. These thr ...
Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب, Yaʿqūb; gr, Ἰακώβ, Iakṓb), later given the name Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State ...

Jacob
. Jacob also had one daughter,
Dinah In the Book of Genesis, Dinah (; ) was the daughter of Jacob, one of the Patriarchs (Bible), patriarchs of the Israelites, and Leah, his first wife. The episode of her violation by Shechem, son of a Canaanite or Hivite prince, and the subsequen ...

Dinah
, whose descendants were not recognized as a separate tribe. The sons of Jacob were born in
Padan-aram Paddan Aram or Padan-aram (Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic language, Old Aramaic: 𐤀𐤓 ...
from different mothers, as follows: *The sons of
Leah Leah ''La'ya;'' from wikt:𒀖, () is an important figure in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the unloved wife of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. Leah was Jacob's first wife, and the older sister of his second (and favored) wife Rachel. She is the ...
;
Reuben Reuben or Reuven is a Hebrew Bible, Biblical male first name from Hebrew רְאוּבֵן (Reu'ven), meaning "behold, a son": * Reuben (son of Jacob). The Portuguese version takes the form Rúben or Rubens (Brazilian Portuguese), in Spanish Rub ...
(Jacob's firstborn),
Simeon Simeon is a given name, from the Hebrew (Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the ...
,
Levi Levi (; ) was, according to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection o ...

Levi
,
Judah Judah may refer to: Historical ethnic, political and geographic terms The name was passed on, successively, from the biblical figure of Judah, to the Israelite tribe; its territorial allotment and the Israelite kingdom emerging from it, with the ...
,
Issachar Issachar () was, according to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection ...
, and
Zebulun Zebulun (; also ''Zebulon'', ''Zabulon'', or ''Zaboules'') was, according to the Books of Book of Genesis, Genesis and Book of Numbers, Numbers,Genesis 46:14 the sixth and last son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelites, Israelite Tr ...
*The sons of
Rachel Rachel () was a Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Rastafari and others. It appears in the form ...

Rachel
;
Joseph Joseph is a common masculine given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). The form "Joseph" is used mostly in English, French and partially German-speaking (alongside "Josef") countries. This spelling is also found as a variant in th ...
and
Benjamin Benjamin () was the last-born of Jacob's thirteen children (12 sons and one daughter), and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the progenitor of the Israelites, Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the ...

Benjamin
*The sons of
Bilhah Bilhah ( "unworried", ''Bilha'', ''Bilhâ'') is a woman mentioned in the .For the etymology, see describes her as 's , who was given to to be her handmaid on Rachel's marriage to . When Rachel failed to have children, Rachel gave Bilhah to Jaco ...

Bilhah
, Rachel's handmaid; Dan and
Naphtali According to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew languag ...
*The sons of
Zilpah In the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew s ...
, Leah's handmaid; Gad and
Asher Asher ( he, אָשֵׁר ''’Āšēr''), in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrati ...

Asher
lists the twelve tribes: *
Reuben Reuben or Reuven is a Hebrew Bible, Biblical male first name from Hebrew רְאוּבֵן (Reu'ven), meaning "behold, a son": * Reuben (son of Jacob). The Portuguese version takes the form Rúben or Rubens (Brazilian Portuguese), in Spanish Rub ...

Reuben
(Hebrew ''Rəʼūḇēn'') *
Simeon Simeon is a given name, from the Hebrew (Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the ...

Simeon
( ''Šīməʻōn'') *
Levi Levi (; ) was, according to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection o ...

Levi
( ''Lēwī'') *
Judah Judah may refer to: Historical ethnic, political and geographic terms The name was passed on, successively, from the biblical figure of Judah, to the Israelite tribe; its territorial allotment and the Israelite kingdom emerging from it, with the ...

Judah
( ''Yəhūdā'') *
Issachar Issachar () was, according to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection ...
( ''Yīssāšḵār'') *
Zebulun Zebulun (; also ''Zebulon'', ''Zabulon'', or ''Zaboules'') was, according to the Books of Book of Genesis, Genesis and Book of Numbers, Numbers,Genesis 46:14 the sixth and last son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelites, Israelite Tr ...
( ''Zəḇūlun'') * Dan ( ''Dān'') *
Naphtali According to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew languag ...

Naphtali
( ''Nap̄tālī'') * ( ''Gāḏ'') *
Asher Asher ( he, אָשֵׁר ''’Āšēr''), in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrati ...
( ''’Āšēr'') *
Benjamin Benjamin () was the last-born of Jacob's thirteen children (12 sons and one daughter), and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the progenitor of the Israelites, Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the ...

Benjamin
( ''Bīnyāmīn'') *
Joseph Joseph is a common masculine given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). The form "Joseph" is used mostly in English, French and partially German-speaking (alongside "Josef") countries. This spelling is also found as a variant in th ...
( ''Yōsēp̄''), later split into two "half-tribes": **
Ephraim Ephraim (; he, אֶפְרָיִם/, ''ʾEfrayim'') was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph (Genesis), Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Ancient Egypt, Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter ...

Ephraim
( ''’Ep̄rayīm'') **
Manasseh Manasses or Manasseh (;churchofjesuschrist ...
( ''Mənašše'') Jacob elevated the descendants of
Ephraim Ephraim (; he, אֶפְרָיִם/, ''ʾEfrayim'') was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph (Genesis), Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Ancient Egypt, Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter ...
and
Manasseh Manasses or Manasseh (;churchofjesuschrist ...
(the two sons of
Joseph Joseph is a common masculine given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). The form "Joseph" is used mostly in English, French and partially German-speaking (alongside "Josef") countries. This spelling is also found as a variant in th ...
and his Egyptian wife
Asenath Asenath (, ) is a minor figure in the Book of Genesis. Asenath was a high-born, aristocratic Egyptian woman. She was the wife of Joseph (Genesis), Joseph and the mother of his sons, Manasseh (tribal patriarch), Manasseh and Ephraim. There are two ...

Asenath
) to the status of full tribes in their own right due to Joseph receiving a double portion after Reuben lost his birth right because of his transgression with Bilhah. In the biblical narrative the period from the
conquest of Canaan The Book of Joshua ( he, ספר יהושע ') is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah. These t ...
under the leadership of
Joshua Joshua () or Yehoshua ( he, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ''Yəhōšūaʿ'') ''Yēšūʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَعُ ٱبْنُ نُونٍ '' Yūšaʿ ibn Nūn''; la, Iosue functioned ...

Joshua
until the formation of the United Kingdom of Israel passed with the tribes forming a loose confederation, described in the
Book of Judges The Book of Judges (, ') is the seventh book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language ...
. Modern scholarship has called into question the beginning, middle, and end of this picture"In any case, it is now widely agreed that the so-called 'patriarchal/ancestral period' is a later 'literary' construct, not a period in the actual history of the ancient world. The same is the case for the ‘exodus’ and the 'wilderness period,' and more and more widely for the 'period of the Judges.'" and the account of the conquest under Joshua has largely been abandoned."Besides the rejection of the Albrightian ‘conquest' model, the general consensus among OT scholars is that the Book of Joshua has no value in the historical reconstruction. They see the book as an ideological retrojection from a later period — either as early as the reign of Josiah or as late as the Hasmonean period." "It behooves us to ask, in spite of the fact that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship is that Joshua is a pious fiction composed by the deuteronomistic school, how does and how has the Jewish community dealt with these foundational narratives, saturated as they are with acts of violence against others?" "Recent decades, for example, have seen a remarkable reevaluation of evidence concerning the conquest of the land of Canaan by Joshua. As more sites have been excavated, there has been a growing consensus that the main story of Joshua, that of a speedy and complete conquest (e.g. : 'Thus Joshua conquered the whole country, just as the had promised Moses') is contradicted by the archaeological record, though there are indications of ''some'' destruction and conquest at the appropriate time. The Bible's depiction of the 'period of the Judges' is widely considered doubtful."In short, the so-called ‘period of the judges’ was probably the creation of a person or persons known as the deuteronomistic historian." The extent to which a united Kingdom of Israel ever existed is also a matter of ongoing dispute."Although most scholars accept the historicity of the united monarchy (although not in the scale and form described in the Bible; see Dever 1996; Na'aman 1996; Fritz 1996, and bibliography there), its existence has been questioned by other scholars (see Whitelam 1996b; see also Grabbe 1997, and bibliography there). The scenario described below suggests that some important changes did take place at the time." "In some sense most scholars today agree on a 'minimalist' point of view in this regard. It does not seem reasonable any longer to claim that the united monarchy ruled over most of Palestine and Syria." "There seems to be a consensus that the power and size of the kingdom of Solomon, if it ever existed, has been hugely exaggerated." Living in
exile To be in exile means to be forced away from one's home (i.e. village A village is a clustered human settlement In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scien ...
in the sixth century BCE, the prophet
Ezekiel Ezekiel (; he, יְחֶזְקֵאל ''Yĕḥezqēʾl'' ; in the Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine ...

Ezekiel
has a vision for the restoration of Israel, of a future in which the twelve tribes of Israel are living in their land again.


Land allotment

According to Joshua 13–19, the
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
was divided into twelve sections corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. However, the tribes receiving land differed from the biblical tribes. The
Tribe of Levi According to the Bible, the Tribe of Levi is one of the tribes of Israel The Twelve Tribes of Israel ( he, שבטי ישראל, translit=Shivtei Yisrael, lit=Tribes of Israel) are, according to Judeo-Christian texts, the descendants of the Biblica ...

Tribe of Levi
had no land appropriation but had six
Cities of Refuge The cities of refuge ( ''‘ārê ha-miqlāṭ'') were six in the and the in which the perpetrators of accidental could claim the . , invoking talmudic literature, expands the city of refuge count to all 48 . Outside of these cities, against ...

Cities of Refuge
under their administration as well as the
Temple in Jerusalem Two ancient Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during th ...
. There was no land allotment for the
Tribe of Joseph The Tribe of Joseph is one of the Tribes of Israel in biblical tradition. Since Ephraim Ephraim (; he, אֶפְרָיִם/, ''ʾEfrayim'') was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian ...
, but Joseph's two sons,
Ephraim Ephraim (; he, אֶפְרָיִם/, ''ʾEfrayim'') was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph (Genesis), Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Ancient Egypt, Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter ...
and
Manasseh Manasses or Manasseh (;churchofjesuschrist ...
, received their father's land portion. Thus the tribes receiving an allotment were: #
Reuben Reuben or Reuven is a Hebrew Bible, Biblical male first name from Hebrew רְאוּבֵן (Reu'ven), meaning "behold, a son": * Reuben (son of Jacob). The Portuguese version takes the form Rúben or Rubens (Brazilian Portuguese), in Spanish Rub ...

Reuben
#
Simeon Simeon is a given name, from the Hebrew (Biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the ...

Simeon
#
Ephraim Ephraim (; he, אֶפְרָיִם/, ''ʾEfrayim'') was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph (Genesis), Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Ancient Egypt, Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter ...

Ephraim
#
Judah Judah may refer to: Historical ethnic, political and geographic terms The name was passed on, successively, from the biblical figure of Judah, to the Israelite tribe; its territorial allotment and the Israelite kingdom emerging from it, with the ...

Judah
#
Issachar Issachar () was, according to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection ...
#
Zebulun Zebulun (; also ''Zebulon'', ''Zabulon'', or ''Zaboules'') was, according to the Books of Book of Genesis, Genesis and Book of Numbers, Numbers,Genesis 46:14 the sixth and last son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelites, Israelite Tr ...
# Dan #
Naphtali According to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew languag ...

Naphtali
# #
Asher Asher ( he, אָשֵׁר ''’Āšēr''), in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrati ...
#
Manasseh Manasses or Manasseh (;churchofjesuschrist ...
#
Benjamin Benjamin () was the last-born of Jacob's thirteen children (12 sons and one daughter), and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the progenitor of the Israelites, Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the ...

Benjamin


Descendants

*The Tribe of Reuben: Reuben was a member of the Northern Kingdom of Israel until the kingdom was conquered by
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
. According to 1 Chronicles 5:26,
Tiglath-Pileser III Tiglath-Pileser III (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbreviation_of_logotype,_from__el.html" ;"title="Chiswick_ ...
of Assyria (ruled 745-727 BC) deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to "Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River."According to the Moabite
Mesha Stele The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, is a stele A stele ( ),Anglicized plural steles ( ); Greek plural stelai ( ), from Greek , ''stēlē''. The Greek plural is written , ''stēlai'', but this is only rarely encountered in E ...
(ca. 840 BCE) the Moabites reclaimed many territories in the second part of the 9th century BCE (only recently conquered by Omri and Ahab according to the Stele). The stele does mention fighting against the tribe of Gad but not the tribe of Reuben, even though taking Nebo and Jahaz which were in the centre in their designated homeland. This would suggest that the tribe of Reuben at this time was no longer recognizable as a separate force in this area. Even if still present at the outbreak of this war, the outcome of this war would have left them without a territory of their own, just like the tribes of Simeon and Levi. This is, according to Richard Elliot Friedman in "Who wrote the Bible?", the reason why these three tribes are passed over in favour of Judah in the J-version of Jacob's deathbed blessing (composed in Judah before the fall of Israel). *The Tribe of Simeon: An
apocrypha Apocrypha (Gr. ἀπόκρυφος, ‘the hidden hings) The biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews fro ...
l
midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

midrash
claims that the tribe was deported by the
Babylonians Babylonia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – ...
to the
Kingdom of Aksum The Kingdom of Aksum ( gez, መንግሥተ አኵስም), also known as the Kingdom of Axum or the Aksumite Empire, was an ancient kingdom, from the 2nd to the 10th century, with its capital at the city of Axum Aksum or Axum (; ti, ኣኽሱ ...

Kingdom of Aksum
(in what is now
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
), to a place behind ''the dark mountains''. *The Tribe of Ephraim: As part of the Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Ephraim was conquered by the
Assyrians Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disambiguation) * SS Assyrian, SS ''Assyrian'', seve ...
, and the tribe exiled; the manner of their exile led to their further history being lost. However, several modern day groups claim descent, with varying levels of academic and rabbinical support. The
Samaritan Samaritans (; ; he, שומרונים, translit=Shomronim; ar, السامريون, translit=as-Sāmiriyyūn) or Samaritan people are members of an ethnoreligious group originating from the Israelites of historical History of ancient Israel a ...

Samaritan
s claim that some of their adherents are descended from this tribe, and many
Persian Jews Persian Jews or Iranian Jews ( fa, یهودیان ایرانی, ''yahudiān-e-Irāni''; he, יהודים פרסים) are the descendants of Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ...
claim to be descendants of Ephraim. Further afield, in India the
Telugu Jews The Bene Ephraim ( he, בני אפריים) ''Bnei Ephraim'' ("Sons of Ephraim"), also called Telugu Jews because they speak Telugu Telugu may refer to: * Telugu language, a major Dravidian language of India *Telugu people, an ethno-linguistic ...
claim descent from Ephraim, and call themselves ''Bene Ephraim'', relating similar traditions to those of the Mizo Jews, whom the modern state of Israel regards as descendants of Manasseh. *The Tribe of Issachar: R' David Kimchi (ReDaK) to I Chronicles 9:1 expounds that there remained from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun in the territory of Judah after the exile of the ten tribes. This remnant returned with the tribe of Judah after the Babylonian Exile.The Tribe of Issachar
/ref> *The Tribe of Zebulun: As part of the Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Zebulun was conquered by the
Assyrians Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disambiguation) * SS Assyrian, SS ''Assyrian'', seve ...
, and the tribe exiled; the manner of their exile led to their further history being lost. Israeli Knesset member
Ayoob Kara Ayoob Kara ( ar, أيوب قرا, he, איוב קרא, born 12 March 1955) is an Israeli Druze politician. He has served as a member of the Knesset The Knesset ( he, הַכְּנֶסֶת ; "gathering" or "assembly") is the unicameral n ...
speculated that the
Druze Druze (; ar, درزي ' or ', plural ') are members of an Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Mi ...
are descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, probably Zevulun. Kara stated that the Druze share many of the same beliefs as Jews, and that he has genetic evidence to prove that the Druze were descended from Jews. *The Tribes of Dan; Gad; Asher and Naphtali:
Ethiopian Jews Beta Israel ( he, בֵּיתֶא יִשְׂרָאֵל, ''Beta Yisra'el''; gez, ቤተ እስራኤል, , modern ''Bēte 'Isrā'ēl'', EAE: "Betä Ǝsraʾel", "House of Israel" or "Community of Israel"), also known as Ethiopian Jews ( he, יְ ...
, also known as
Beta Israel Beta Israel ( he, בֵּיתֶא יִשְׂרָאֵל, ''Beta Yisra'el''; gez, ቤተ እስራኤል, , modern ''Bēte 'Isrā'ēl'', Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, EAE: "Betä Ǝsraʾel", "House of Israel" or "Community of Israel"), also known as E ...
, claim descent from the Tribe of Dan, whose members migrated south along with members of the tribes of ,
Asher Asher ( he, אָשֵׁר ''’Āšēr''), in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrati ...
, and
Naphtali According to the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew languag ...

Naphtali
, into the
Kingdom of Kush The Kingdom of Kush (; : 𓎡𓄿𓈙 ''kꜣš'', : ''Ku-u-si'', in grc, Κυς and Κυσι; cop, ; he, כּוּשׁ) was an ancient kingdom in , centered along the in what is now northern and southern . The region of Nubia was an ea ...
, now
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
and
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
, during the destruction of the
First Temple According to the Biblical narrative, Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was a temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, t ...
.AS noted above the Tribe of Simon was also deported to the
Kingdom of Aksum The Kingdom of Aksum ( gez, መንግሥተ አኵስም), also known as the Kingdom of Axum or the Aksumite Empire, was an ancient kingdom, from the 2nd to the 10th century, with its capital at the city of Axum Aksum or Axum (; ti, ኣኽሱ ...

Kingdom of Aksum
(in what is now
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
). *The Tribe of Manassah: Part of the Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Manasseh was conquered by the
Assyrians Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disambiguation) * SS Assyrian, SS ''Assyrian'', seve ...
, and the tribe exiled; the manner of their exile led to their further history being lost. However, several modern day groups claim descent, with varying levels of academic and rabbinical support. Both the
Bnei Menashe The Bnei Menashe ( he, בני מנשה, "Children of Menasseh") are an ethnolinguistic __NOTOC__ Ethnolinguistics (sometimes called cultural linguistics) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of languag ...
and the
Samaritan Samaritans (; ; he, שומרונים, translit=Shomronim; ar, السامريون, translit=as-Sāmiriyyūn) or Samaritan people are members of an ethnoreligious group originating from the Israelites of historical History of ancient Israel a ...

Samaritan
s claim that some of their adherents are descended from this tribe. The Mizo Jews, whom the modern state of Israel regards as descendants of Manasseh. *The Tribe of Benjamin apparently became part of the Tribe of Judah.


In Christianity

The twelve tribes of Israel are referred to in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
. In the
gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel"), but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out. In this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrative of the words and ...
of Matthew () and Luke (),
Jesus Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...

Jesus
anticipates that in the
Kingdom of God The concept of the kingship of God appears in all Abrahamic religions, where in some cases the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are also used. The notion of God's kingship goes back to the Hebrew Bible, which refers to "his kingdom" but ...
his will "sit on welvethrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel". The
Epistle of James The Epistle of James, the Letter of James, or simply James ( grc, Ἰάκωβος, Iakōbos), is a General epistle The catholic epistles (also called the general epistlesEncarta-encyclopedie Winkler Prins (1993–2002) s.v. "katholieke brieven ...
() addresses his audience as "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad". The
Book of Revelation The Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of John, Revelation to John or Revelation from Jesus Christ) is the final book of the New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; ...
() gives a list of the twelve tribes. However the
Tribe of Dan The Tribe of Dan (), meaning, "Judge", was one of the tribes of Israel, according to the Torah. They were allocated a coastal portion of land when the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, later moving northwards. Biblical narrative I ...
is omitted while
Joseph Joseph is a common masculine given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). The form "Joseph" is used mostly in English, French and partially German-speaking (alongside "Josef") countries. This spelling is also found as a variant in th ...
is mentioned alongside of
Manasseh Manasses or Manasseh (;churchofjesuschrist ...
. In the vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the tribes' names are written on the city gates. ()


In Islam

The
Quran The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن , "the recitation"), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious t ...

Quran
(7th century CE) states that the people of
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
were split into twelve tribes. Surah 7 (
Al-A'raf Al-Araf ( ar, ٱلأعراف, ; The Heights) is the 7th chapter (''sūrah A ''surah'' (; ar, سورة, Sūratun or sūrah; , ) is the equivalent of "chapter" in the Quran The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن, translit=al-Qurʼān, l ...

Al-A'raf
) verse 160 says:

"We split them up into twelve tribal communities, and We revealed to Moses, when his people asked him for water,

aying Aying is a municipality in the district of Munich Munich ( ; german: München ; bar, Minga ) is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria. With a population of 1,558,395 inhabitants as of 31 July 2020, it is the List of cities in G ...
‘Strike the rock with your cane,’ whereat twelve fountains gushed forth from it. Every tribe came to know its drinking-place. And We shaded them with clouds, and We sent down to them manna and quails: ‘Eat of the good things We have provided you.’ And they did not wrong Us, but they used to wrong nlythemselves."


Historicity


Scholarly examination

For thousands of years, Christians and Jews have accepted the history of the twelve tribes as fact. Since the 19th century, however,
historical criticism Historical criticism, also known as the historical-critical method or higher criticism, is a branch of criticism that investigates the origins of ancient texts in order to understand "the world behind the text". While often discussed in terms of ...
has examined the veracity of the historical account; whether the twelve tribes ever existed as they are described, the historicity of the eponymous ancestors, and even whether the earliest version of this tradition assumes the existence of twelve tribes. The idea of twelve tribes has been described as "late Judahite" (i.e. 7th–6th century BCE). For example: *The
Blessing of Jacob The Blessing of Jacob is a prophetic poem that appears in Genesis at and mentions each of Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب '' Yaʿqūb'', gr, Ἰακώβ, ''Iakṓb''), later given the name Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂר ...
() directly mentions Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin and especially extolls Joseph over his brothers. *
Blessing of Moses The Blessing of Moses is the name given to a prophetic poem that appears in Deuteronomy The Book of Deuteronomy (literally "second law" from Greek ''deuteros'' + ''nomos'') is the fifth book of the Jewish Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹר ...
() mentions Benjamin, Joseph, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Reuben, Levi, and Judah, omitting Simeon. *
Judges 1 Judges 1 is the first chapter of the Book of Judges The Book of Judges (, ') is the seventh book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scr ...
describes the conquest of Canaan; Benjamin and Simeon are mentioned in the section about Judah's exploits, and are listed alongside the Calebites and the Kenites, Joseph, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan are mentioned, but Issachar, Reuben, Levi and Gad are not. *the Song of Deborah (), widely acknowledged as one of the oldest passages in the Bible, mentions eight of the tribes: Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Issachar, Reuben, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. The people of the Gilead region, and Machir (biblical region), Machir, a subsection of Manasseh, are also mentioned. The other five tribes are not mentioned. * The Rechabites and the Jerahmeel, Jerahmeelites are also presented as Israelite tribes elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, but never feature in any list of tribes of Israel. * Operating by the Documentary hypothesis: ** The Jahwist source relates the births of Reuben, then Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Joseph and Dinah, both appearing without birth narratives, are introduced separately in the succeeding chapters, Benjamin is introduced during the episode where Joseph's brothers seek relief from famine in Egypt, along with the notion that Joseph had "ten brethren", however, if one considers the Blessing of Jacob as having originally been a separate piece, the rest of the sons of Jacob are never named. ** The Elohist source relates the births of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Reuben, appearing without a birth narrative, is then described as bringing mandrakes to his mother Leah, who then gives birth to Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. Simeon is introduced as the sole outcrier against his brother's plans to sell Joseph into slavery, Ephraim and Manasseh are later introduced as Joseph's sons, and even later Levi is subsequently introduced only in the narrative of
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
' birth. Judah is never mentioned.


Theories of origin

Scholars such as Max Weber (in ''Ancient Judaism (book), Ancient Judaism'') and Ronald M. Glassman (2017) concluded that there never was a fixed number of tribes. Instead, the idea that there were always twelve tribes should be regarded as part of the Israelite national
founding myth An origin myth is a myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or supernatural humans. ...
: the was not a real number, but an ideal number, which had symbolic significance in Near Eastern cultures with duodecimal counting systems, from which, among other things, the modern 12-hour clock is derived. Biblical scholar Arthur Peake saw the tribes originating as postdiction, as eponymous metaphor giving an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation.Peake's commentary on the Bible
(1962) by Matthew Black, Harold Henry Rowley, and Arthur Samuel Peake - Thomas Nelson (publisher)
Translator Paul Davidson argued: "The stories of Jacob and his children, then, are not accounts of historical Bronze Age people. Rather, they tell us how much later Jews and
Israelites The Israelites (; ) were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchic peri ...

Israelites
understood themselves, their origins, and their relationship to the land, within the context of folktales that had evolved over time." He goes on to argue that most of the tribal names are "not personal names, but the names of ethnic groups, geographical regions, and local deities. E.g.
Benjamin Benjamin () was the last-born of Jacob's thirteen children (12 sons and one daughter), and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the progenitor of the Israelites, Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the ...

Benjamin
, meaning "son of the south" (the location of its territory relative to Samaria), or
Asher Asher ( he, אָשֵׁר ''’Āšēr''), in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, is an account of the Genesis creation narrati ...
, a Phoenician territory whose name may be an allusion to the goddess Asherah." Historian Dr. Immanuel Lewy in Commentary (magazine), ''Commentary'' mentions "the Biblical habit of representing clans as persons. In the Bible, the twelve tribes of Israel are sons of a man called
Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب, Yaʿqūb; gr, Ἰακώβ, Iakṓb), later given the name Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State ...

Jacob
or Israel, as Esau, Edom or Esau is the brother of Jacob, and Ishmael and
Isaac Isaac, ''Isaák''; ar, إسحٰق/إسحاق, ; am, ይስሐቅ is one of the three patriarchs The highest-ranking bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is gener ...

Isaac
are the sons of
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenan ...

Abraham
. Biblical Elam, Elam and Ashur (Bible), Ashur, names of two ancient nations, are sons of a man called Shem. Sidon, a Phoenician town, is the first-born of Canaan (son of Ham), Canaan; the lands of Egypt and Abyssinia are the sons of Ham (son of Noah), Ham. This kind of mythological geography is widely known among all ancient peoples. Archaeology has found that many of these personal names of ancestors originally were the names of clans, tribes, localities, or nations. […] if the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are those of mythological ancestors and not of historical persons, then many stories of the Patriarchal age, patriarchal and Moses, Mosaic age lose their historic validity. They may indeed partly reflect dim reminiscences of the Hebrews' tribal past, but in their specific detail they are fiction." On the same subject, Gijsbert J.B. Sulman wrote that the idea of common ancestry should be seen as "an expression of solidarity of different ethnic groups, who merged over time to form one nation", and that the practice of inventing common ancestry is also known among the Bedouin. Norman Gottwald argued that the division into twelve tribes originated as an administrative scheme under King David. Additionally, the
Mesha Stele The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, is a stele A stele ( ),Anglicized plural steles ( ); Greek plural stelai ( ), from Greek , ''stēlē''. The Greek plural is written , ''stēlai'', but this is only rarely encountered in E ...
(carved c. 840 BCE) mentions Omri as King of Israel and also mentions "the men of ".


Attributed coats of arms

Attributed arms are Western European coats of arms given retrospectively to persons real or fictitious who died before the start of the age of heraldry in the latter half of the 12th century. Attributed arms of the Twelve Tribes from the Portuguese ', 1675 Thesouro de Nobreza. Asher.png, Asher Thesouro de Nobreza. Benjamin.png, Benjamin Thesouro de Nobreza. Dan.png, Dan Thesouro de Nobreza. Ephraim.png, Ephraim Thesouro de Nobreza. Gad.png, Gad Thesouro de Nobreza. Issachar.png, Issachar Thesouro de Nobreza. Judah.png, Judah Thesouro de Nobreza. Manasseh.png, Manasseh Thesouro de Nobreza. Naphtali.png, Naphtali Thesouro de Nobreza. Reuben.png, Reuben Thesouro de Nobreza. Simeon.png, Simeon Thesouro de Nobreza. Zebulun.png, Zebulun


See also

* Black Judaism * Israel (the modern state, founded in 1948 CE) * Kingdom of Israel (the northern kingdom, according to scriptural accounts, it existed from 930 to 722 BCE) * Kingdom of Judah (the southern kingdom, according to scriptural accounts, it existing from 930 to 586 BCE) * List of Jewish states and dynasties * Ten Lost Tribes


References


External links


The Twelve Tribes
at ''The Jewish Encyclopedia''
The Twelve Tribes of Israel
at the Jewish Virtual Library {{Authority control Tribes of Israel, Cultural lists, 12 tribes of Israel Judaism-related lists Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy) Tribes of Asia 12 (number)