NAMES FOR TWELVE TRIBES
Do you think there are 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible?
There are at least 14 names for the tribes.
Three of the tribes are supposedly descendants of Jacob’s son Joseph: the tribes of Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim. The remaining eleven tribes are supposedly descendants of Jacob’s eleven other sons.
I don’t particularly care if there are an excess of names for the so-called “Twelve Tribes” of Israel. But I am disappointed that none of my religion teachers in school ever mentioned it in class, and no sermonizer ever sermonized on it, at least not that I can recall.
I suppose the list of tribal names varied depending on which tribes were part of the Israelite confederation at any particular point in time, or which were politically favored by a biblical writer, or even known to the writer.
The tribe of Simeon is missing from a list of tribal names in Deuteronomy 33. In the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, the tribe of Dan is missing. No one has perfect knowledge and for that matter, who among us can name all the States which are contiguous with our State here in the US, let alone the names of all 50 States?
NAMES OF THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
|1 – Judah||4 – Judah||2 – Judah||4 – Judah|
|2 – Reuben||1 – Reuben
|1 – Reuben||1 – Reubenites|
|3 – Gad||11 – Gad||10 – Gad||2 – Gadites|
|4 – Asher||12 – Asher||13 – Asher||13 – Asherites|
|5 – Naphtali||10 – Naphtali||12 – Naphtali||14 – Naphtalites|
|6 – Manasseh||*||7 – Manasseh||3 – Manasseh
9 – Manassites
(duplicate, listed with Josephites)
|7 – Simeon||2 – Simeon||*||5 – Simeonites|
|8 – Levi||3 – Levi||3 – Levi||15 – Levites|
|9 – Issachar||5 – Issachar||9 – Issachar||12 – Issacharites|
|10 – Zebulun||6 – Zebulun||8 – Zebulun||11 – Zebulunites|
|11 – Joseph||7 – Joseph||5 – Joseph||8 – Josephites|
|12 – Benjamin||8 – Benjamin||4 – Benjamin||6 – Benjamin|
|*||9 – Dan||11 – Dan||7 – Danites|
|*||*||6 – Ephraim||10 – Ephraimites
(listed with Josephites)
|Total 12 names||Total 12 names
(See also Exodus
|Total 13 names||Total 15 entries;
one duplicate entry and two are sub-tribes
(See also Numbers
|Fourteen names for twelve tribes|
|1 – Reuben
2 – Simeon
3 – Levi
4 – Judah
5 – Issachar
6 – Zebulun
7 – Joseph
8 – Benjamin
9 – Dan
10 – Naphtali
11 – Gad
12 – Asher
13 – Manasseh
14 – Ephraim
|English names are from the NRSV.
The number shown is that name’s order in the list of names in that book.
Inconsistency in names is shown by an asterisk (*).
There may be other passages more instructive than those I have shown in my table. The tribe of Manasseh split into two “halves” when receiving land so is listed twice in column 4?? And two of the tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, may be considered part of the Josephites, because Manasseh and Ephraim were sons of Joseph (Numbers 1:10, Joshua 17:1, Numbers 1:32) whom Jacob sort of adopted (Genesis 48:5). Thus Numbers 34 and 35 really present 12 tribes, or really 14?
I don’t expect perfect knowledge on the part of the biblical authors, nor of myself, nor of the myriads of my fellow citizens, who according to a recent survey, do not even know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. And who are unaware of global warming. And completely clueless about what they are clueless about. But I suspect most people do know how to apply a postage stamp to an envelope.
Why is it so important to have 12 names for 12 tribes and so important to have exactly 12 tribes? It is only important to the Bible-thumpers who have no idea that the Bible is a book written by people, each person with an agenda and human frailty, and that the Bible is not something to be idolized.
The discrepancies in names indicate that having exactly twelve tribes was maybe not a priority with all the biblical authors way back when. The twelve tribes may have been twelve at some point in time or maybe not, or maybe the tribes were less than or more than 12, with fewer or more than 12 names for the tribes.
Maybe allegiances were shifting all the time, here one day, gone the next, depending on trade, warfare, politics, marriages between royal families, etc.
The exact list of aligned tribes at any given moment may have been known only to whoever was king and even he may not have been able to have a list of all his “alliances” on the tip of his tongue. But if alliances were based in part on who married whom, then maybe the wives and concubines had a better idea of who was supposedly connected to whom.
It would seem?? that the author of the list of the 12 sons of Jacob in Genesis 35 (progenitors of the tribes), wanted us to doubt that all 12 sons belonged to Jacob and his two wives and his two concubines. Just before listing the 12 in 35:22, the author tells us that the eldest son lay with one of the concubines (the mother of two of his step-brothers). But the author does not say that her sons, Dan and Naphtali, were not sons of Jacob. However, Deuteronomy 33:22 says, “Dan is a lion’s whelp.” Maybe a reference to paternity?
The Book of Revelation chapter 7 does not list Dan. It is a mystery why Revelation lists Manasseh as one of the “twelve” tribes, when Manasseh was a grandson of Jacob, not a son. A mistake? (Or a clue to yet another puzzle? Yes, there is a puzzle!! – see below.)
How can the number of sons who went to Egypt (twelve) be important when Exodus 1:5 tells us, “The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy.” Jacob had seventy children!!! But only 12 of them were important?? And the Gospel has 12 apostles and 70 persons sent, all missionaries. If the pattern of Jacob holds, then the 12 apostles are a subset of the 70.
As someone told me, we have to consider the possibility that the story of 12 brothers, all sons of Jacob (aka Israel), was a fiction crafted to instill a feeling of fraternity among (approximately) 12 tribes, a loose confederacy of peoples with no known common ancestry who happened to be living in the same general area, all willing to be aligned with King David. I will guess that at some point the confederacy grew to 14 tribes and so two of these were designated descendants of “grandsons” of Jacob?? (Manasseh and Ephraim).
Many centuries after 10 Israelite tribes were lost to history (the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians), the New Testament author of James addressed his letter to the “Twelve Tribes.” Why?
And after “10” of “12” tribes were lost, how many remained? Two and a half??: Judah, Benjamin, and some of Levi. It doesn’t add up.
Just as there are 14 names for “12” tribes, there are at least 14 names for “12” apostles. So there is some sort of consistency there.
REVELATION’S ANOMALOUS TRIBE
I thought that the list of 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:5-8) might contain a puzzle when I realized that one of the names was incorrect: Manasseh should be Dan. Since Greek numerals were written with letters (scroll down to Greek numerals chart in here), it seemed to me that the odd name “Manasseh” might indicate that the list of tribes had been altered in order to gain a certain numerical value.
Unlike some other solutions in my previous post where only the numerical values of the Greek first-letters are used, here I sum the numerical values of all letters in each tribal name to gain 12 values for the 12 tribes. These values are shown next in brackets after each tribe, arranged in three sets of four values in the order in which they appear in the text, and each set summed.
Ἰούδα , Ῥουβὴν , Γὰδ , Ἀσὴρ ,
Sum 1 = 1,432
Νεφθαλὶμ , Μανασσῆ , Συμεὼν , Λευὶ ,
Sum 2 = 3,085
Ἰσσαχὰρ , Ζαβουλὼν , Ἰωσὴφ , Βενιαμὶν ,
Sum 3 = 4,158
From the SBL Greek New Testament-SBL-
Only the third sum is evenly divisible by 7.
Using “30, 60, 100” in the Sower’s Parables (Mark 4:8 and 4:20):
30 x sum 1 = 30 x 1,432 = 42,960
60 x sum 2 = 60 x 3,085 = 185,100
100 x sum 3 = 100 x 4,158 = 415,800
Sum of products = 643,860; factor of 70 x 7
This sum of products is evenly divisible by “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22 (footnote NRSV). -18:22- See also, Genesis 4:24.)
Now with this eighth instance of my discovering a “seventy times seven” in the Bible with Sower’s Parables numbers (see my previous post), I have to ask, what are the odds against gaining eight instances of “seventy times seven”? We can readily see that the odds of a factor of 7 x 7 are 1 in 49. The probability against eight instances of this is 1 in 49 to the eighth power, or 1 in 33,232,930,569,601. That is approximately 1 in 33 trillion. Likewise, the probability against gaining eight of “seventy times seven” is 490 to the eighth power, or 3,323,293,056,960,100,000,000 (or 3.32e+21). Astronomical!
There does appear to be a non-random repeating numerical pattern in the Bible, but of course, it could just be a coincidence.
Caveat: If the occurrence of sevens is not just a coincidence, then I’ll guess there is some mathematical method involved, but not necessarily the method I have explained in this post.
NRSV used in this post.
Posted on March 24, 2014