How each of the Tribes received its name and what does this tell us?
Who were/are the 12 tribes of Israel descended from?
Tribal Name Significance 1/3
Duration 11.30 minutes
The 12 Tribes of Israel were descended from Jacob and his four wives. Jacob was also known as Israel. The Book of Genesis describes the birth of the Tribes and the name given to each of them. Every name had its own significance and tells us something concerning the character and destiny of each one.
In this Video clip the names of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, and Zebulon are considered.Â
All the 12 Tribes are descend from Jacob who was re-named Israel (Genesis 32:28, 35:10). Jacob married Rachel and Leah who were sisters. The father of Rachel and Leah was Leban from Aram. Rachel had a hand-maiden named Bilhah and Leah one named Zilpah. Jacob had children from all four women.Â
Â From Rachel Jacob begat Joseph and Benjamin.
Â From Bilhah he begat Dan and Naphtali.
Â From Zilpah came Gad and Asher.
Â From Leah Jacob begat Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon.
Below are selected verses concerning the birth of the 12 Tribes and the meaning of their names in Hebrew. This is accompanied by short remarks concerning possible attributes of the Tribe in question.
The name Reuben may indicate pride, exaltation, also a certain joy in life and living for its own sake. The giving of the name also points tot he need to right a wrong, and to be given respect due to poistion held by innate right. We identify Reuben with France and these traits apply to France.Â
Genesis (NKJV) 29:
Â 15 Then Laban said to Jacob, â€˜Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?â€™ 16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leahâ€™s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance...
23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, â€˜What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?â€™
Â 26 And Laban said, â€˜It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.â€™
Â 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. 29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. 30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben [See a Son]; for she said, â€˜The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.â€™
33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, â€˜Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.â€™ And she called his name Simeon [Hear of Affliction].
The name Simeon may indicate a resentment of perceived discrimination, of being easily offended, and of a desire to restore whatever one is felt to have been deprived of. We find Simeon as scattered among the other tribes but also identificable as groups among the Irish, Welsh, Bretons (of France), and others, as well as among the Jews. Elsewhere Simeon was also noted for aÂ tendency to extreme profligacy (Numbers 25:4) and/or fanaticism (Genesis 49:5).
The Levites attach themselves to the Almighty. They were to serve in the Temple (Numbers 8:19). They also had a talent for overseeing and administration. They were to excel in pomulagting the law (Deuteronomy 17:9) and by extrapolation also in legalism and science, as noted by the Sages.
34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, â€˜Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.â€™ Therefore his name was called Levi [Accompany].Â
35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, â€˜Now I will praise the LORD.â€™ Therefore she called his name Judah [Thank, Acknowledge].Religious Jews pray a lot. They also will acknowledge the Truth once convinced of it (Genesis 38:26). In turn the righteosness of Judah will be acknowledged by the other Tribes (Geneis 49:8, the word usually translated as "praise" in Hebrew is "yoduca" implying more correctly, "will acknowledge you.".
Genesis (NKJV) 30:
Â 4 Then she [i.e. Rachel] gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, â€˜God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.â€™ Therefore she called his name Dan [Judge].
Dan is a Judge. He tries to see things in black and white, to reach a final solution to any given question. We identify Dan mainly with people in Ireland and Denmark.
7 And Rachelâ€™s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, â€˜With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.â€™ So she called his name Naphtali [Wrestle, Struggle, Intertwine]....
Naphtali is compared to a female deer (Genesis 49:21) and the Sages said this was because of its speed. The female deer is said to run faster than the male one. This combined with the wrestling connotation of his name suggest an athletic and combatitve dipositition. Naphtali became prominent in Scandinavia, especially Norway. Norway, together with Denmark gave rise to the Vikings who were known as warriors and were to make sudden raids from the sea agaisnt their prey.Â
Genesis (NJKV) 30:The Tribe of Gad took extra land of its own east of the Jordan. This area may have been intended for it from the beginning. Nevertheless, Gad took initiative of his own and together with Reuben asked Moses to intercede with God and give the area to him (Numbers 32:2-5). It shows a quality of keeping an eye open for opportunity. The name Gad from the word-root "gedud" also connotes "adding to, building up."Â Another aspect of this name "gedud" in Hebrew indicates a group of soldiers or others (Genesis 49:19). The emphasis is on group. We identify Gad wth peoples in Scandinavia especially the ancient Goths and Swedes of Sweden. An emphasis on the group as a common collerctive and on general consensus is consdiered a characteristic of the Swedes.
10 And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, 'A troop comes!' So she called his name Gad [i.e. Group of soldiers].
12 And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, 'I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.' So she called his name Asher [i.e. Happy].
We find Asher in Scandinavia and Ireland. The Irish are world-famous for having them individuals who are always appearing to be happy. "When Irish eyes are smiliong" is a famous song recalling this phenomenon.
17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, â€˜God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.â€™ So she called his name Issachar [Reward, Requite].
We identify Issachar with elements in Switzerland and Finland. The "Reward" aspect of the name Issachar is especially evident in Switzerland which is known for taking "commissions," i.e. rewards, through its banking system.
19 Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 And Leah said, â€˜God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.â€™ So she called his name Zebulun [Dwelling].Zebulon became an element among the Dutch. The name Zebulon connotes the Home. The Tribe of Zebulon was to be known for its enterprising merchant characters (Deuteronomy 49:13) and its ocean going trading (Genesis 33:18). This is the opposite of staying at home. Nevertheless the Dutch did this for the sake of home-building, of making a dwelling for themselves and of "home-conforts."
21 Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.Joseph indicates growth, expand. It also connotes making a new beginning, of repentance. Joseph through the UK, the USA, and the British Dominions has givenÂ expression to these values.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, â€˜God has taken away my reproach.â€™ 24 So she called his name Joseph [Make Addition], and said, â€˜The LORD shall add to me another son.â€™....
Genesis (NKJV) 35:The name given to Benjamin by his mother, "Ben-oni," as well as connotingÂ "Son of My Travail" also indicates "Son of my Strength." The name given by his father. Benjamin, meaningÂ Â Son of My Right-HandÂ is ironic since historically many from Benjamin used their left-hand or were ambidexterous. We have several articles on this matter. Amongst other things the name "Benjamin" connotes getting things done, being straight-forward. Benjamin was to become promininent among the Jews and Normans.
Â 16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, â€˜Do not fear; you will have this son also.â€™ 18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni [Son of My Travail]; but his father called him Benjamin [Son of My Right-Hand].