Tribes, the Twelve

Acts 26:7; James 1:1; Revelation 21:12; Revelation 7; Ezekiel 48:1-35; Numbers 1; Genesis 29; Genesis 49; Deuteronomy 33; Joshua 13‑14; Ezekiel 48; Daniel 6; Daniel 7; Daniel 8  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Twelve was God’s chosen number for Israel, under this number they were ever before Him, as manifested in the twelve stones on the breastplate and the twelve names on the two onyx stones in the shoulder pieces of the high priest, and in the twelve loaves on the table of shewbread. All these continued the same after the division of the ten tribes, and notwithstanding the separation. Though the ten tribes were dispersed, and as men think “lost,” Paul spoke of the twelve tribes constantly serving God in his day; and James addressed the twelve tribes in his epistle. In the New Jerusalem the names of the twelve tribes will be written on the twelve gates (Acts 26:77Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. (Acts 26:7); James 1:11James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. (James 1:1); Rev. 21:1212And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: (Revelation 21:12)). They remain ever twelve in God’s sight, as the church is ever one before Him.
In seven passages a list of the twelve tribes is given, but the order of the names varies in each, for which there is doubtless a divine reason. After Levi was separated for the priesthood, the number twelve was maintained by Ephraim and Manasseh being mentioned instead of Joseph. When Moses blessed the twelve tribes Simeon was omitted. The blessing there is not so much a prophecy of their historical future, as when Jacob blessed them, but according to their relationship with God in government and blessing. In Revelation 7, where the tribes are sealed for blessing, Dan is omitted, as being a type of Antichrist: Ephraim is also omitted, the number being made up by inserting Levi and by Joseph being mentioned as well as Manasseh. In the future division of the land Dan will have a portion, but will be the farthest from the temple (Ezek. 48:1-351Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath, Hazar-enan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath; for these are his sides east and west; a portion for Dan. 2And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Asher. 3And by the border of Asher, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Naphtali. 4And by the border of Naphtali, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Manasseh. 5And by the border of Manasseh, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Ephraim. 6And by the border of Ephraim, from the east side even unto the west side, a portion for Reuben. 7And by the border of Reuben, from the east side unto the west side, a portion for Judah. 8And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west side, shall be the offering which ye shall offer of five and twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the other parts, from the east side unto the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. 9The oblation that ye shall offer unto the Lord shall be of five and twenty thousand in length, and of ten thousand in breadth. 10And for them, even for the priests, shall be this holy oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length, and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty thousand in length: and the sanctuary of the Lord shall be in the midst thereof. 11It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. 12And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites. 13And over against the border of the priests the Levites shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand in breadth: all the length shall be five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. 14And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land: for it is holy unto the Lord. 15And the five thousand, that are left in the breadth over against the five and twenty thousand, shall be a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall be in the midst thereof. 16And these shall be the measures thereof; the north side four thousand and five hundred, and the south side four thousand and five hundred, and on the east side four thousand and five hundred, and the west side four thousand and five hundred. 17And the suburbs of the city shall be toward the north two hundred and fifty, and toward the south two hundred and fifty, and toward the east two hundred and fifty, and toward the west two hundred and fifty. 18And the residue in length over against the oblation of the holy portion shall be ten thousand eastward, and ten thousand westward: and it shall be over against the oblation of the holy portion; and the increase thereof shall be for food unto them that serve the city. 19And they that serve the city shall serve it out of all the tribes of Israel. 20All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand: ye shall offer the holy oblation foursquare, with the possession of the city. 21And the residue shall be for the prince, on the one side and on the other of the holy oblation, and of the possession of the city, over against the five and twenty thousand of the oblation toward the east border, and westward over against the five and twenty thousand toward the west border, over against the portions for the prince: and it shall be the holy oblation; and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst thereof. 22Moreover from the possession of the Levites, and from the possession of the city, being in the midst of that which is the prince's, between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin, shall be for the prince. 23As for the rest of the tribes, from the east side unto the west side, Benjamin shall have a portion. 24And by the border of Benjamin, from the east side unto the west side, Simeon shall have a portion. 25And by the border of Simeon, from the east side unto the west side, Issachar a portion. 26And by the border of Issachar, from the east side unto the west side, Zebulun a portion. 27And by the border of Zebulun, from the east side unto the west side, Gad a portion. 28And by the border of Gad, at the south side southward, the border shall be even from Tamar unto the waters of strife in Kadesh, and to the river toward the great sea. 29This is the land which ye shall divide by lot unto the tribes of Israel for inheritance, and these are their portions, saith the Lord God. 30And these are the goings out of the city on the north side, four thousand and five hundred measures. 31And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi. 32And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one gate of Dan. 33And at the south side four thousand and five hundred measures: and three gates; one gate of Simeon, one gate of Issachar, one gate of Zebulun. 34At the west side four thousand and five hundred, with their three gates; one gate of Gad, one gate of Asher, one gate of Naphtali. 35It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there. (Ezekiel 48:1‑35)). In the following table the names are numbered throughout according to birth. In Numbers 1 there are two lists of the tribes: one, the heads of the tribes, as given in the following table; the other, when the tribes were numbered, the only difference in the order of the names being that in the latter Gad comes before Judah.
According to Birth. Gen. 29 Blessed by Jacob. Gen. 49 Heads of Tribes Chosen. Num. 1 Blessed by Moses. Deut. 33 Dividing of the Land. Josh. 13-14. Future division North to South. Ezek. 48 Sealed for Blessing. Rev. 7
1 Reuben 2 Simeon 3 Levi 4 Judah 5 Dan 6 Naphtali 7 Gad 8 Asher 9 Issachar 10 Zebulun 11 Joseph 12 Benjamin 1 Reuben 2 Simeon 3 Levi 4 Judah 10 Zebulun 9 Issachar 5 Dan 7 Gad 8 Asher 6 Naphtali 11 Joseph 12 Benjamin 1 Reuben 2 Simeon 4 Judah 9 Issachar 10 Zebulun 11b Ephraim 1la Manasseh 12 Benjamin 5 Dan 8 Asher 7 Gad 6 Naphtali 1 Reuben 4 Judah 3 Levi 12 Benjamin 11b Ephraim 1la Manasseh 10 Zebulun 9 Issachar 7 Gad 5 Dan 6 Naphtali 8 Asher 1 Reuben 7 Gad 1la Manasseh 4 Judah 11b Ephraim 12 Benjamin 2 Simeon 10 Zebulun 9 Issachar 8 Asher 6 Naphtali 5 Dan 5 Dan 8 Asher 6 Naphtali 1la Manasseh 11b Ephraim 1 Reuben 4 Judah 12 Benjamin 2 Simeon 9 Issachar 10 Zebulun 7 Gad 4 Judah 1 Reuben 7 Gad 8 Asher 6 Naphtali 1la Manasseh 2 Simeon 3 Levi 9 Issachar 10 Zebulun 11 Joseph 12 Benjamin
In the accompanying map will be seen the situation of the tribes as the land was apportioned by Joshua. For the division of the land when the twelve tribes are restored by God, see the map under EZEKIEL.