The Puzzle Of The 12 Tribes

Q. My wife and I have been going over the tribes of Israel and we noticed something and can not explain it. There is no tribe of Joseph. Ephraim and Manasseh are Josephs sons and Levi of course is the priests there for I guess they don’t count as a tribe. Another oddity which seems to not get much play is Joseph’s sons are from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s Daughter which by the standards of Hebrew tradition means they are not Jews. How-ever when they are brought to Jacob before he dies he lays his hands on them and adopts and blesses them, so technically they became their father’s brothers. Any thoughts?

A. When Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons, they qualified for his inheritance as if they were his own sons. (Genesis 48:5) In this way Joseph received the inheritance of the first born, even though he was Jacob’s 11th son, because the first born got a double portion of his father’s estate. The Lord had apparently prompted Jacob to do this, knowing that Joseph would die in Egypt. Ephraim and Manasseh were often called half tribes, although their eventual portions of the Promised land were substantial.

For military purposes Levi was not to be numbered among the tribes of Israel, because the priests were exempt from military service. Also, the tribe of Levi received no land, since the Lord said that He was their inheritance. They did receive 40 cities through out Israel.

What it comes down to is that there are 14 names from which to choose in listing the 12 tribes, and various combinations were used. The most unusual is in Rev. 7 where both Dan and Ephraim are omitted but Levi and Joseph are included in naming the tribes from which the 144,000 will be chosen.

This means that the people of Dan won’t receive any supernatural protection from the anti-Christ during the Great Tribulation. We think that Dan was omitted because of his connection with the introduction of idolatry into the Northern Kingdom. (1 Kings 12:28-30) Since Ephraim was also involved he’s not mentioned either, although by mentioning Joseph and Manasseh, the people of Ephraim are covered.

But the tribe of Dan won’t be wiped out, because when the land is re-distributed in the Millennium, Dan is given his share first. (Ezekiel 48:1)

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