Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Tribes of Israel

Israel had 12 sons, as follows: Reuben, (ראובן Rĕ'uwben, Jacob's firstborn); Simeon, (שמעון Shim`own); Levi, (לוי Leviy); Judah, (יהודה Yĕhuwdah); Dan, (דן Dan); Naphtali, (נפתלי Naphtaliy); Gad, גד (Gad); Asher, (אשר 'Asher); Issachar, (יששכר Yissaskar); Zebulun, (זבולון Zĕbuwluwn); Joseph, (יוסף Yowceph);  –Manasseh, (מנשה Mĕnashsheh); and Ephraim– (אפרים 'Ephrayim); and Benjamin (בנימין Binyamiyn). (Jacob was renamed Israel Gen. 32:27-29)

The House of Joseph (sometimes referred to as the Tribe of Joseph) were the Old Testament tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Both of these tribes were descendants of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who are both first mentioned in Genesis 41:50-52. In Genesis 48 Ephraim and Manasseh are taken to see a dying Jacob, who blesses Ephraim (the younger son) with his right hand and Manasseh with his left hand (see Genesis 48:14,19).

The Tribe of Levi was set apart from the others in the sense that, the members of the Tribe of Levi were to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.

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.

Tribal Divisions

Politically, the Israelites were composed of thirteen tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin. In parts of the Bible, Ephraim and Manasseh are treated as together constituting the House of Joseph, while the Levi have a special religious role and had only scattered cities as territory; whence traditionally either Ephraim and Manasseh were counted as one tribe, or Levi wasn't counted, so that together the tribes were the Twelve Tribes of Israel (see also: Gen. 32: 27-29, Gen. 48:5).


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