We are often asked the Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From a synagogue wall in Jerusalem. - Wikimedia Commonsquestion "who is Israel?"  It is a broad topic fraught with controversy and (Lord willing) will be the subject of a future article.  In the meantime, a less controversial question that is smaller in scope is "who are the twelve tribes of Israel?".  Let's examine both Scripture and history to learn the answer.

The Tribes of Israel are the groups born of the sons of the man once named "Jacob" who the Most High renamed "Israel" (Genesis 35:10).  Who are they?  In the order of their birth, they are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.

Since Jacob/Israel adopted Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own (Genesis 48:5) technically there are thirteen tribes. In the accounting of the Land of Israel, Levi is not mentioned since they have no inheritance in the Land (Numbers 18:20). The Lord apportions the Land to the remaining twelve.

The color, symbol, and banner information are found in an ancient bible study (called the Midrash Rabbah: Hebrew for "Great Study") related to the book of Numbers, called Numbers Rabbah.

Let's briefly look at all thirteen tribes beginning with the eldest son, Reuben:

Reuben

Birth order: 1 (Genesis 29:32)

Hebrew name: ראובן

Transliterated: Reuven

Meaning: "He has seen" (Genesis 29:32)

Mother: Leah

Color: Red

Stone: Ruby (Exodus 28:17)

Associated symbol: water (Genesis 49:4)

Position around tabernacle: south (Numbers 2:10-16)

Banner: the color of his flag was red, and embroidered on it were mandrakes.

 

 

Simeon

Birth order: 2 (Genesis 29:33)

Hebrew name: שמעון

Transliterated: Shimon

Meaning: "he has heard" (Genesis 29:33)

Mother: Leah

Color: Green

Stone: Topaz (Exodus 28:17)

Associated symbol: Shechem (Genesis 49:5)

Position around tabernacle: south (Numbers 2:10-16)

Banner: his flag was green with the town of Shechem embroidered on it.

 

Levi

Birth order: 3 (Genesis 29:34)

Hebrew name: לוי

Transliterated: Levi (pronounced LEV ee)

Meaning: "attached" (Genesis 29:34)

Mother: Leah

Color: Black, red, & white

Stone: Bareqet (emerald?) (Exodus 28:17)

Associated symbol: chosen

Position around tabernacle: around (Numbers 2:17)

Banner: the color of his flag was a third white, a third black, and a third red; embroidered on it were the Urim and Thummim

 

Judah

Birth order: 4 (Genesis 29:35)

Hebrew name: יהודה

Transliterated: Yehudah

Meaning: "I will praise" (Genesis 29:35)

Mother: Leah

Color: Sky blue

Stone: Carbuncle (turquoise?) (Exodus 28:18)

Associated symbol: lion (Genesis 49:9)

Position around tabernacle: east (Numbers 2:3-9)

Banner: the color of his flag resembled that of the heavens, embroidered on it was a lion.

 

Dan

Birth order: 5 (Genesis 30:5)

Hebrew name: דן

Transliterated: Dan (pronounced dahn)

Meaning: "judged"/"vindicated" (Genesis 30:6)

Mother: Bilhah

Color: Blue

Stone: Sapphire (Exodus 28:18)

Associated symbol: judge/scales (Genesis 49:16), serpent (Genesis 49:17)

Position around tabernacle: north (Numbers 2:25-31)

Banner: the color of his flag was similar to sapphire; embroidered on it was a serpent

 

Naphtali

Birth order: 6 (Genesis 30:7)

Hebrew name: נפתלי

Transliterated: Naphtali

Meaning: "wrestling"/ "twisting" (Genesis 30:8)

Mother: Bilhah

Color: Medium red

Stone: Diamond (Exodus 28:18)

Associated symbol: hind/doe (Genesis 49:21)

Position around tabernacle: north (Numbers 2:25-31)

Banner: the color of his flag was like clarified wine of a not very deep red; on it was embroidered a hind

 

Gad

Birth order: 7 (Genesis 30:10-11)

Hebrew name: גד

Transliterated: Gad (pronounced gahd)

Meaning: "fortunate" (Genesis 30:11)

Mother: Zilpah

Color: Black and white

Stone: Jacinth (Exodus 28:19)

Associated symbol:

Position around tabernacle: south (Numbers 2:10-16)

Banner: the color of his flag was neither black nor white but a blend of black and white; on it was embroidered a camp

 

Asher

Birth order: 8 (Genesis 30:12-13)

Hebrew name: אשר

Transliterated: Asher (pronounced ah SHAIR)

Meaning: "happy" (Genesis 30:13)

Mother: Zilpah

Color: Aquamarine

Stone: Agate (Exodus 28:19)

Associated symbol: abundant food (Genesis 49:20)

Position around tabernacle: north (Numbers 2:25-31)

Banner: the color of his flag was like the precious stone with which women adorn themselves embroidered thereon was an olive tree

 

Issachar

Birth order: 9 (Genesis 30:18)

Hebrew name: יששכר

Transliterated: Yisachar

Meaning: "wages" (Genesis 30:18)

Mother: Leah

Color: Black

Stone: Amethyst (Exodus 28:19)

Associated symbol: donkey (Genesis 49:14)

Position around tabernacle: east (Numbers 2:3-9)

Banner: the color of his flag was black like stibium (antimony); embroidered on it were the sun and the moon.

 

Zebulun

Birth order: 10 (Genesis 30:19)

Hebrew name: זבולון

Transliterated: Zevulun

Meaning: "gift"/"dwell" (Genesis 30:20)

Mother: Leah

Color: White

Stone: Beryl (Exodus 28:20)

Associated symbol: ships (Genesis 49:13)

Position around tabernacle: east (Numbers 2:3-9)

Banner: the color of his flag was white, with a ship embroidered on it.

 

Joseph

Birth order: 11 (Genesis 30:22-23)

Hebrew name: יוסף

Transliterated: Yosef (pronounced YO sef)

Meaning: "add another" (Genesis 30:24)

Mother: Rachel

Color: Black

Stone: Onyx (Exodus 28:20)

Associated symbol: grapevine (Genesis 49:22)

Position around tabernacle: n/a (see Ephraim & Manasseh below)

Banner: the color of his flag was jet black; the embroidered design thereon for both princes Ephraim and Manasseh was Egypt because they were born there.

 

Ephraim

Birth order: n/a

Hebrew name: אפרים

Transliterated: Efrayim

Meaning: "fruitful"

Mother: Asenath (Joseph's wife)

Color: Black

Stone:

Associated symbol: bullock

Position around tabernacle: west (Numbers 2:18-24)

Banner: a bullock was embroidered on his flag.

 

Manassah

Birth order: n/a

Hebrew name: מנשה

Transliterated: Menasheh

Meaning: "forgetfulness" (Exodus 41:51)

Mother: Asenath (Joseph's wife)

Color: Black

Stone:

Associated symbol: wild ox

Position around tabernacle: west (Numbers 2:18-24)

Banner: a wild ox was embroidered on his flag.

 

Benjamin

Birth order: 12 (Genesis 35:17)

Hebrew name: בנימין

Transliterated: Benyamin

Meaning: "son of my right hand"

Mother: Rachel

Color: Mixed colors

Stone: Jasper (Exodus 28:20)

Associated symbol: wolf (Genesis 49:27)

Position around tabernacle: west (Numbers 2:18-24)

Banner: the color of his flag was a combination of all the twelve colors; embroidered on it was a wolf.

 

New Realm Impressions has created artistic Messianic banners for each tribe (their site requires a Flash plugin).

 

Here is the same information given above in chart format:

 Birth orderHebrew nameTrans-literatedMeaningMotherColorStoneSymbolPosition
Reuben 1 ראובן Reuven "He has seen"
(Genesis 29:32)
Leah red ruby
(Exodus 28:17)
water
(Genesis 49:4)
south
(Numbers 2:10-16)
Simeon 2 שמעון Shimon "He has heard"
(Genesis 29:33)
Leah green topaz
(Exodus 28:17)
Shechem
(Genesis 49:5)
south
(Numbers 2:10-16)
Levi 3 לוי Levi "attached"
(Genesis 29:34)
Leah black, red, & white emerald
(Exodus 28:17)
chosen
(the breastplate)
around (Numbers 2:17)
Judah 4 יהודה Yehudah "I will praise"
(Genesis 29:35)
Leah sky blue turquoise
(Exodus 28:18)
lion
(Genesis 49:9)
east
(Numbers 2:3-9)
Dan 5 דן Dan "judged"/"vindicated"
(Genesis 30:6)
Bilhah blue sapphire
(Exodus 28:18)
serpent
(Genesis 49:17)
north
(Numbers 2:25-31)
Naphtali 6 נפתלי Naphtali "wrestling"/ "twisting"
(Genesis 30:8)
Bilhah medium red diamond
(Exodus 28:18)
hind/doe
(Genesis 49:21)
north
(Numbers 2:25-31)
Gad 7 גד Gad "fortunate"
(Genesis 30:11)
Zilpah black and white jacinth
(Exodus 28:19)
  south
(Numbers 2:10-16)
Asher 8 אשר Asher "happy"
(Genesis 30:13)
Zilpah  aquamarine agate
(Exodus 28:19)
abundant food
(Genesis 49:20)
north
(Numbers 2:25-31)
Issachar 9 יששכר Yisachar "wages"
(Genesis 30:18)
Leah  black amethyst
(Exodus 28:19)
donkey
(Genesis 49:14)
east
(Numbers 2:3-9)
Zebulun 10 זבולון Zevulun "gift"/"dwell"
(Genesis 30:20)
Leah white beryl
(Exodus 28:20)
ships
(Genesis 49:13)
east
(Numbers 2:3-9)
Joseph 11 יוסף Yosef "add another"
(Genesis 30:24)
Rachel black onyx
(Exodus 28:20)
grapevine
(Genesis 49:22)
 
Ephraim - אפרים Efrayim "fruitful"
(Genesis 41:52)
Asenath
(Joseph's wife)
 black   bullock west
(Numbers 2:18-24)
Manasseh - מנשה Menasheh "forgetfulness"
(Exodus 41:51)
Asenath  black   wild ox west
(Numbers 2:18-24)
Benjamin 12 בנימין Benyamin "son of my right hand" Rachel mixed jasper (Exodus 28:20) wolf
(Genesis 49:27)
west
(Numbers 2:18-24)

 

 

Torah Portion

unknown.

 

 

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Today is

Yom Sh'lishi, 16 Tishrei, 5779 - Chol Hamoed Sukkot

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

 

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