Home > Content Index > Books of the Bible > Genesis > Twelve Tribes of Israel

What are the twelve tribes of Israel?

twelve tribes Israelaudio
Question: "What are the twelve tribes of Israel?"

The twelve tribes of Israel came from the twelve sons of Israel. “Israel” is the name that God gave Jacob (Genesis 32:28). His twelve sons are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Genesis 35:23-26; Exodus 1:1–4; 1 Chronicles 2:1–2). When the tribes inherited the Promised Land, Levi’s descendants did not receive a territory for themselves (Joshua 13:14). Instead, they became priests and had several cities scattered throughout all of Israel. Joseph’s tribe was divided in two—Jacob had adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, essentially giving Joseph a double portion for his faithfulness in saving the family from famine (Genesis 47:11–12). This means the tribes who received territory in the Promised Land were Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. In some places in Scripture, the tribe of Ephraim is referred to as the tribe of Joseph (Numbers 1:32–33).

After King Solomon died, Israel split into two kingdoms. Judah, to the south, included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other tribes combined to make the kingdom of Israel in the north. In the ensuing years, many Israelites in the north emigrated to Judah in the south to flee the apostasy in their homeland (see 2 Chronicles 11:16; 15:9). Eventually, Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, and most of the Israelites were either killed or deported; the Israelites who remained most likely integrated with Judah as many of the faithful before them had.

Jesus was from Judah, Paul was from Benjamin, and John the Baptist was a Levite, but, since the diaspora in A.D. 70, identifying the tribe of a modern Jew is a little more difficult. That doesn’t mean that the tribal divisions are irrelevant. During the tribulation, when most of the world has abandoned God and is following the Antichrist, 144,000 Jews will be sealed by God. This number comprises 12,000 from each tribe. So, even if we don’t know who is in what tribe, God has kept track. The tribes are listed again in Revelation 7:5-8, but they are not the same tribes that were given land in Joshua. Manasseh is there, and Ephraim (under Joseph’s name). But instead of Dan, Levi is included. No explanation is given as to why.

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible

More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!

Related Topics:

When did the separation of humanity into Jews and Gentiles occur?

Who were the kings of Israel and Judah?

What should we learn from the tribe of Judah?

Were Jacob’s prophecies about his sons fulfilled?

What are the different names for the Israelites, and what do they mean?

Return to:

Miscellaneous Bible Questions

What are the twelve tribes of Israel?

Share this page on:

Find Out How to...

Statement of Faith
The Gospel
Crucial Questions
Content Index
Top 20 Questions

Question of the Week

Preferred Bible Version:


Subscribe to our Question of the Week

Get our Questions of the Week delivered right to your inbox!