What Are The 12 Tribes Of Israel?

Name: Monday
Question: Trying very hard to understand what happened to Israel at the split of the kingdoms and how that has continued thru history to the present. I don’t understand which tribes were with what kingdom and why one group was called “Judah”….any detailed chronological information on this subject would be so helpful to me (and maybe others) in furthering our commitment and dedication to our brothers/sisters in Israel and around the world, and would also enrich our understanding of who “we” are and who our ancestors were.Thank you so much for considering my question.

Name: Brandon T. Ward
Answer: Thank you for the question Monday.

The Origins Of The 12 Tribes Of Israel

The 12 Tribes of Israel were also known as Hebrews, and they are the descendants of Adam. Abraham was also a part of this family, and God told Abraham he would become the father of many nations (and kings), and his children would be as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of heaven, (Genesis 17:4-7).

Abraham would have a son named Issac, who would have a son named Jacob, and this is when our Father’s Everlasting Promise to Abraham became a reality.

The Names Of The 12 Tribes Of Israel

The 12 Tribes of Israel stem from Jacob whose name was later changed to “Israel” by God (Genesis 32:28). Jacob’s (Israel’s) 12 sons were, (Genesis 35:23-26);

  • Reuben
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah
  • Dan
  • Naphtali
  • Gad
  • Asher
  • Issachar
  • Zebulun
  • Joseph
  • Benjamin

Each of Jacob’s 12 sons made up one of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

For example, the Tribe of Judah originated from Jacob’s son “Judah”.

So Judah’s descendants would naturally make up the Tribe of Judah.

The Land Of The 12 Tribes Of Israel

12 Tribes of Israel Map
12 Tribes of Israel Map
Credit: WikiCommons

The land of Israel is the land where Israel’s (Jacob’s) children settled. Each of the Tribes were allotted a portion of land as depicted in the image to the right. You can find details of this in Numbers 26.

Unfortunately, the nation of Israel as a whole (The Twelve Tribes) was split into Two Kingdoms by our Father due to the sinful actions of the people, (1 Kings 11:29-36).

The Ten Northern Tribes were known as the “House of Israel,” while the Two Southern Tribes were known as the “House of Judah“.

Ahijah the prophet would tell Jeroboam he would become king of the House of Israel which consisted of,

 Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun, (1 Kings 11:29-33).

I have to mention, Scripture indicates at one time the Tribe of Simeon was counted among the Northern Tribes, (2 Chronicles 15:9, 34:6). However, after the “House of Israel” fell away from God, the Tribe of Simeon (among other Tribes) seems to have migrated South and eventually became absorbed into Judah, (2 Chronicles 11:16-17, 15:8-9, Joshua 19:1-9).

The House of Judah would consist primarily of Judah and Benjamin, and later, Simeon (1 Kings 12:21, 2 Chronicles 11:12).

We should note, Levi received no land allotment as they served as the Priests for the whole land of Israel, (Deuteronomy 18:1-2, Joshua 13:14). Though God did provide them with 48 cities spread throughout the land, (Numbers 35:1-8).

While this was the general break down, people from the various Northern Tribes left the region and joined the House of Judah, (2 Chronicles 11:16; 15:9). This was due to the perversion taking place in their land.

Despite the split between the House of Israel and House of Judah, sin would eventually consume both kingdoms. This would lead to our Father invoking His promise as outlined in Leviticus 26. Over time, the House of Israel and the House of Judah were carried away captive by heathen nations due to their failure to follow our Father’s Law, (2 Kings 17:6, 25:21).

The 12 Tribes Of Israel Remain Split

Ezekiel 37:16-22 explains, the House of Israel and the House of Judah symbolically represent a “stick” that has been divided in two. We just discussed that division. The two parts of the stick that represent each of these two kingdoms will not be rejoined until the Millennium, when they once again become One Kingdom United Under God.

It is important to understand the nation named Israel today is comprised of only a part of Judah, and even that is hard to see, (see: Are The Jews God’s Chosen People?).

Remember, the “stick” has not yet been rejoined, it has not been made whole, only after the Return of Christ.

The 10 Tribes Became The Christian Nations

God’s Word tells us the House of Israel, that would be the Ten Northern Tribes were scattered by God, (2 Kings 15:29; 17:6). Today, people commonly call these Tribes, the Ten Lost Tribes.

Yet, our Heavenly Father did not lose them, and He certainly did not forget about His Everlasting Promise to Abraham. That is, to make Abraham’s children as numerous as the sand of the sea, and become many and strong nations. Obviously, the nation named Israel today does not fulfill that covenant, that would be impossible.

However, the Christian nations have and do.

Not only can we see this through the power and blessings of these nations, but it can be documented in history. I recommend reading, “Abrahamic Covenant” by E. Raymond Capt that will help you understand this.

The 12 Tribes And The Tribulation

Looking to the future, we can see the 12 Tribes of Israel play a role during the Tribulation, (see: The Saints And Their Role In The Tribulation). Revelation 7 documents 144,000 people will be Sealed with the Word of God before the Tribulation can begin, (see: The Four Winds Of Revelation).

This 144,000 is comprised of the 12 Tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe making up that total. You will notice, the Tribe of Dan has been removed and “Manasses” or “Manasseh” has been inserted into his place. It is believed the Tribe of Dan was removed due to their sin, (Leviticus 24:10-16, Deuteronomy 29:18-21).

Manasseh was one of Joseph’s two sons, the other son being Ephraim, (Genesis 46:20).  It is worth noting, the Tribe of Joseph includes both Manasseh and Ephraim.

Additional Reading:


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