12 Tribes: What’s in a Name?

A number of times in the Old Testament, the 12 tribes are listed together. However, when you account for the adoption of the sons of Joseph, there are actually 13 tribes. In a way, splitting the tribe of Joseph into two accounts for the tribe of Levi being given to the Lord. This keeps the number of tribes to receive the inheritance in the promised land at 12. But, it also means that various lists of 12 tribes contain a different set of 12 tribes.

When Jacob’s wives give birth to his sons and when Joseph has his sons, the Bible records a sentence that someone said at the birth of the child and the sentence contains the meaning of the name.

It’s interesting to look at the event taking place, the order the 12 tribes are listed (it’s almost always different), and the sentences spoken at the birth of the sons or the meaning of their names.

In 1 Chronicles 11 and 12, all Israel is being gathered together to David at Hebron. They take Jebus, the stronghold of Zion (or Jerusalem) from the Jebusites and it becomes the city of David. We then read about David’s trusted advisors and mighty men of war.

Towards the end of chapter 12, there is a list of the 12 tribes. The list is interesting because all 13 tribes are mentioned. However, Rueben and Gad are lumped together as one. I think we can reasonably conclude this because the number of men that came to David from each tribe is given, except that the number of men from Rueben and Gad is one number.

The order of the tribes is Judah, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, Dan, Asher, Rueben/Gad.

Remember the situation. All Israel has gathered together to David, their king. Could we think of this as Israel being gathered to God? If we remember that God is often pictured as a husband to Israel, then the order of the tribes might say something like this:

“I will praise the Lord. The Lord has heard that I am hated. But, my husband will be attached to me. I will not fear. God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction and made me forget all of my hardship. God has given me wages and endowed me with a good endowment. With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled and prevailed. God has judged me. Happy am I because the Lord has looked upon my affliction and good fortune has come.”

So, is this situation not similar or analogous to Jesus gathering together all those who believe into his bride? When we come to the Lord, doesn’t this sound like something we could say?

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