Twelve Tribes of Israel (really 14)
Part 1

First thing to understand is there are fourteen Tribes of Israel listed in scripture.  Two more Tribes were "grafted" into the twelve whom were born of Joseph in Egypt.  These grandsons of Jacob were adopted as sons to Jacob.  Collectively the Tribes are always referred to as the "Twelve".  

Note that when scripture is referring to the Tribe of Joseph, it can also mean the two Tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim are included.  The best analogy given by some commentators is it is like a "Baker's Dozen" which means you pay for 12 but get 13.  One of the underlying reasons for God's "Twelve" is His use of patterns in numbers throughout the scriptures which are consistent and proving expositional consistency by the Holy Spirit.

Notice that throughout the history of the Tribes that specific Tribes were omitted at times because of disobedience and the order, or omission, of listing is different to accomplish God's purposes such as Levi being exempt from military duty in all but one case.

Twelve Tribes

Born to Isaac who later becomes Israel are twelve sons born in this order as listed in Genesis 29:32 through Genesis 30:24 and Benjamin in Genesis 35:18.

  Birth Order Hebrew Mother Ensign General Meaning
1 Reuben ראובן Leah Man with wavy lines of water Made from two words: 1st part is to "see, look" and 2nd part "son, offspring".  Put together "Behold a son" or "Son of Vision" or "Son who's seen"
 verb ראה (ra'a) and בן (ben)
2 Simeon שמע Leah A Tower General meaning it to "Hear" or "Heard" or hear something through word of mouth. 
3 Levi לוי Leah   Two possible meanings "Weary" or "to be Joined"
4 Judah ידה Leah Lion Means "praise"
5 Dan דין Bilhah for Rachel Snake then Eagle In Genesis 30:6 we learn it means "Judge" or "Judging"
6 Naphtali פתל Bilhah for Rachel A deer / hind Means to "twist" or "contort" or "wrestling"
7 Gad גדי Zilpah for Leah Troop of Horsemen Possible meaning "Good Fortune" or "Good Luck" or "Harrowing Fortune"
8 Asher אשר Zilpah for Leah A Cup From Genesis 30:13 the meaning is "Happy"
9 Issachar Ισαχαρ Leah Donkey with burden From Genesis 30:18 the meaning is "There is recompense"
10 Zebulun

זבלון

Leah A ship From Genesis 30:20 the meaning appears to be Leah feels exalted because she has given Jacob 6 sons.  Therefore, the meaning is "Exalted"
11 Joseph

יוסף

Rachel   Two meanings "May He (Yahweh) Add" or "He Shall Add"
12 Benjamin

בנימין

Rachel Wolf Three meanings "Son Of The Right Hand" or "Son Of Strength" or "Son Of The South"

Brief Notes:

Two More Tribes

When Jacob (Israel) goes to Egypt and meets Joseph after believing he was killed by wild animals because of lies told by the other sons, Jacob adopts Joseph's two sons.  See Genesis 46:8-20 to see the 14 sons which became the Tribes Of Israel.  In Genesis 48:5 where Jacob is talking to Joseph "Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine."  Notice that Jacob puts their birth order reversed because of the relevance in importance that the two tribes have in the future.

  Birth Order Hebrew Mother Ensign General Meaning
13 Manasseh

מנשה

Asenath - Joseph's wife Vine by the side of a Wall Means to "Forget" which is derived where Joseph said God has caused me to forget the separation and pain caused from his departure into Egypt.
14 Ephraim

אפרים

Asenath - Joseph's wife Ox A few meanings where most probably "Fruitful" and then potentially "fruitfulness in the land of affliction"

Listings Occurrences in the Scripture

The "Tribes Listed" numeric reference in the 3rd column is the birth order.  For example, Rueben is 1 and Ephraim is 14.

  Scripture reference Major references of Tribes listed in the order presented and notes Count Tribe(s) omitted
1 Gen 29:32 through Gen 30:24; Gen 35:18. 1 through 12 in Birth Order 12 0
2 Gen 46:8-20 1 through 12 - Jacob moves to Egypt 12 0 - Tribes 13 - Manasseh & 14 - Ephraim referenced in Gen 46:20 but not adopted yet
3 Gen 48:5 13 & 14 - Adoption into the twelve tribes 2 not applicable - 2 new tribes added.
4 Gen 49:3-27 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 9, 5, 7, 8, 6, 11, 12 - Blessings & Prophecy 12 Tribes 13 - Manasseh & 14 - Ephraim
5 Exo 1:2-4 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 12, 5, 6, 7, 8 - Entering Egypt 11 Tribes 11 - Joseph already in Egypt, Grandsons 13 & 14 which were adopted were also already in Egypt.
6 Num 1:5-15 1, 2, 4, 9, 10, 11, 14, 13, 12, 5, 8, 7, 6 - Lists two people from the tribes listed who are leaders of the census 13 Tribe 3 Levi
7 Num 1:20 - 43 1, 2, 7, 4, 9, 10, 11, 14, 13, 12, 5, 8, 6 13 Tribe 3 - Levi which were exempted
8 Num 2 4, 9, 10, 1, 2, 7, 3, 14, 13, 12, 5, 8, 6 - Arrangement of the Camps 13 Tribe 11 - Joseph
9 Num 7 4, 9, 10, 1, 2, 7, 14, 13, 12, 5, 8, 6 - dedication offerings for Alter 12 Tribes 3 - Levi and 11 - Joseph
10 Num 10 4, 9, 10, 1, 2, 7, 14, 13, 12, 5, 8, 6 - marching order 12 Tribes 3 - Levi and 11 - Joseph
11 Num 13 1, 2, 4, 9, 14, 12, 10, 11, 13, 5, 8, 6, 7 - spies sent into promise land.  Note that Gaddi the son of Susi was sent (represented) both the tribe of Joseph and Manasseh so there were 12 spies. 13 Tribe 3 - Levi
12 Num 26 1, 2, 7, 4, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 12, 5, 8, 6 - census 13 Tribe 3 - Levi
13 Num 34 1, 7, (13), 4, 2, 12, 5, 11, (13), 14, 10, 9, 8, 6 - division of the land 13 Tribe 3 - Levi
14 Deu 27 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 12, 1, 7, 8, 10, 5, 6 - blessings and curses Mount Ebal 12 Tribes 13 - Manasseh and 14 - Ephraim
15 Deu 33 1, 3, 12, 11, 14, 13, 10, 9, 7, 5, 6, 8 12 Tribes 2 - Simeon and 4 - Judah
16 Jos 13 - 22 (13), 1, 7, 11, 14, (13), 4, 12, 2, 10, 9, 8, 6, 5 - Canaan divided among the Tribes 13 Tribe 3- Levi
17 Jud 5 14, 12, 10, 9, 1, 5, 8, 10, 6 - Song of Deborah 9 Tribes 2, 3, 4, 7, 11
18 1 Chr 2:1-2 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 5, 11, 12, 6, 7, 8 - Genealogies 11 Tribes 9 - Issachar, 13 - Manassah, 14 - Ephraim
19 1 Chr 4-9 8, 2, 1, 11, 7, (13), 3, 4, 10, 9, 12, 6,  13, 14, 8, 12 - Genealogies 13 Tribe 5 - Dan
20 1 Chr 12 12, 7, 4, 13, 2, 3, 14, 9, 10, 6, 8, 10, 6 - David's supporters in Zihlog 13 Tribe 5 - Dan
21 1 Chr 27:16- 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 6, 14, (13), (13), 12, 5 - David's commanders by Tribe 11 Tribe 7- Gad, 8 - Asher, 11 - Joseph
22 Ezk 48:1-30 5, 8, 6, 13, 14, 1, 4, 3, 12, 2, 9, 10, 7 - Kingdom (Land) divisions in the Millennium.  They all will inherit. 13 Tribe 11 of Joseph which is infered by having Tribes 13 & 14.  Joseph is mentioned in Ezk 48:32
23 Rev 12 4, 1, 7, 8, 6, 13, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11- The 144,000 witnesses, 12,000 from 12 of the Tribes of the 14. 12 Tribe 5 - Dan, 14 - Ephraim
24 Rev 21:12 And having a wall great and high, and having 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 12 Assumption is Joseph which includes Ephraim and Manasseh

Lost Tribes? No!

There is a tradition that there is 10 lost tribes of Israel.  There is an abundance of information that this is not true. 

The belief from the scriptures comes from 2 Kings 17:6-23 where the King of Assyria, Shalmaneser, deported Israelites to various parts of the Kingdom of Assyria after a three year siege on the capital of the Northern conquered kingdom.  At that time, Israel was divided into a southern kingdom and a Northern Kingdom where the northern was ruled by Hoshea where 10 of the 14 tribes were located geographically.  The northern Kingdom had rejected the Southern Kingdom under King Solomon's son Rehoboam.  In the Northern Kingdom idolatry had been setup under Jeroboam in the form of two golden calves or bulls.  The question is "If you were a believer in Yahweh, do you stay in the north or do you move so that you can continue to go to Jerusalem on the Sabbath, Feast Days and to present offering rather than participate in idolatry in the north?"   Note that there is more to the explanation of the division not explained fully.

More evidence from the scriptures.  From the New Testament scriptures listed below, besides Old Testament references which occur after the Northern Kingdom's fall, there is six Tribes specifically listed before Revelation 12 where twelve tribes are listed of the fourteen tribes.

  1. When Babylonians took over the Northern Kingdom, all the Tribes were represented in the Southern Kingdom.  Recall that Isaiah was prophesying to Judah, "House of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel.", in Isa 48:1.
  2. After the Babylonian captivity, the term Jew and Israelite are used interchangeably.  Ezra uses Jew 8 times and Israel 40 times; Ezra speaks "all Israel" in Ezr 2:70, 3:11; 8:35, 10:25;
  3. In Neh 12:47, Nehemiah speaks of "all Israel" being back in the land.
  4. In Mt 10:5-6 and 15:24, there are Tribes other than Judah which are mentioned specifically in the land by Jesus speaking to go to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel".
  5. In Mt 4:13 "and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, with is by the sea, in the region of (10) Zebulun and (6) Naphtali."  Notice there is no scripture stating in the land "formerly settled by".
  6. In Lk 2:26 "And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (8)."
  7. In Act 2:36 at the feast of Pentecost, Peter cries out "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain the God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified". 
  8. In Act 4:36 "And Joseph, a Levite (3) .. "
  9. In Acts 26:7 where Paul is speaking to Agrippa: "the promise ot which our twelve tribes hope to attain .."  If they were lost it was news to Paul.
  10. In Rom 11:1, Paul speaking: "I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (12)."
  11. In Heb 8:8 "a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (4)"
  12. In Jas 1:1, James is a bond servant to Jesus Christ and to the twelve tribes "twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad greetings".  Note James says they are dispersed but not lost and James is sending greeting to them as James expects his writings to reach them.
  13. In Phil 3:5 ".. eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin (12)."
  14. If specific Tribes moved, did the following generations forget their ancestry / genealogy? With exceptions from specific peoples taken from their homelands into slavery, pretty much everyone has ideas of themselves being German, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Scottish, Grecian, Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Dutch, Nigerian, Venezuelan, Brazilian, etc.
  15. In Ezekiel 36, 37, there is the Dry Bones vision of Israel regathered in the land.
  16. If God names 12,000 from 12 tribes in Revelation chapter 12 then they are not lost in God's viewpoint.

144,000 Virgin Men of 12 tribes in the Book of Revelation

Notice also in Rev 12:4 that they are sons and not daughters.  In Rev 14:4 it further identifies them as men, also they are virgins who have not been with a woman.  As listed above in row item 23, they are specifically named from Tribes so more evidence that they are no lost tribes and that tribes were not assimilated into other people groups where their historical identity is completely lost.  The Adolf Hitler WWII Concentration Camps and the exodus of Jews from Russia in the last 100 years demonstrates that Jews to this day know their ancestry and can be identified.

Furthermore, regarding the 144,000 Jewish "Evangelist" are protected from the judgments occurring in the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation Period and that all 14 tribes have representatives who make it into the 1,000 year millennium kingdom from the scriptural references in Ezk 48.  The belief is:
1.  Tribe of Dan is left out of the protection because of the evidence based on the history of the tribe being the first to let in idolatry along with not participating in military actions when they were expected.
2.  Tribe of Ephraim led other tribes in the northern part of Israel briefly against King David and then later under Jeroboam they divided the nation into two kingdoms. 

Click here to continue to part 2

All Information, unless indicated otherwise, is copyright 2015-2016