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The 12 Tribes of Israel

The 12 Tribes of Israel

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Joshua 14:1 - "And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them."


The 12 Tribes of Israel for Little Kids

This map shows where the twelve tribes of Israel were located!

Jacob had twelve sons, and the land of Israel was given to his sons which created the twelve tribes. Can you spot the twelve tribes of Israel on the map?


Here is a list of all the tribes:

1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Ephraim
4. Judah
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
7. Gad
8. Asher
9. Issachur
10. Zebulun
11. Manasseh
12. Benjamin

Did you notice the name Dan shows up twice on the map? That's because the tribe of Dan was given the land along the coast, but there is also a city named Dan up in the north! One of Jacob's sons, Levi, was not given land because his tribe was chosen to be priests so they had a special relationship with God instead of land.

These 12 tribes would eventually be unified as one nation, the nation of Israel, and be led by kings such as King Saul, King David, and King Solomon.


The 12 Tribes of Israel for Kids

Ancient Assyrian Man with BeardThe 12 Tribes and Bible History. God made promises that go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. These promises passed on to the men and women of God in the earliest of times. Abraham Isaac and Jacob are the fathers of the children of Israel. They put their hope in God and his promises, and God did everything he said he was going to do for them. When they found themselves as slaves in Egypt God raised up a Hebrew named Moses to deliver them out and lead them to the promised land.
The children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years with Moses as their leader. God was preparing a people. But it would be their children who would inherit the blessing. The time came for the people of Israel to enter the promised land. Moses died and appointed Joshua to lead them into the promised land. They miraculously crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, the land that God had promised to Abraham and his seed:

"and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

What a marvelous promise, Abraham's descendants would inherit a land and become a great nation. The promise was given to Abraham, and then to Isaac, and then Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Joshua and David, and throughout the history of Israel. Not only would the Jews be blessed but all the nations of the world. 1000 years after King David, the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, came to this earth and laid down his life so that all the nations of the world could be blessed. The people of God today are those who, by faith, conquer the enemy and inherit the promised land of the Kingdom of God.

Historical Background. After Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea, they made their journey through the great and terrrible wilderness. They came to the border of the promised land but did not have the faith to believe God's promises and enter the land. God told Moses to let that whole generation die in the wilderness and it would be their children who would actually inherit the promise and conquer the land of Canaan. Finally when Moses died he commanded Joshua to lead people. The children of Israel crossed the Jordan River and conquered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. They defeated 33 kings in seven years. After this the leaders of each tribe came to Shiloh and they cast lots to determine which part of the land was apportioned to their tribe. The promised land was finally divided up among the 12 tribes of Israel in fulfillment to God's promises to Abraham.

The 12 Sons of Jacob.

1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
7. Gad
8. Asher
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Joseph
12. Benjamin

Note: Jacob had 12 sons and they were promised an inheritance in the land of Israel.

The 12 Tribes.

1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Ephraim
4. Judah
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
7. Gad
8. Asher
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Manasseh
12. Benjamin

Note: Since the tribe of Levi did not recieve a territorial inheritance the tribe of Joseph was divided into two sections (a double blessing for Jacob's son): Ephraim and Manasseh to equal a total of 12 tribes.

Joshua. Joshua was the man that Moses chose as his successor and to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Joshua is first seen in the Bible as a strong military leader in a battle against the Amalekites at Rephidim. This happened early during the time of the wandering in the wilderness. When the children of Israel arrived at the promised land at Kadesh, they sent 12 spies to survey the land of Canaan to determine what they were up against. 10 of the spies gave a fearful report, but Joshua and Caleb encouraged the Israelites to go up and take the land that God had promised them. Later Joshua led the tribes across the Jordan River, near Jericho, and conquered the Land of Canaan in a period of seven years and divided it between the remaining 9 1/2 tribes. Earlier Moses had divided the land east of the Jordan (Transjordan) between 2 1/2 tribes as they requested (Numbers 32). During the last request of Moses before his death he instructed Joshua to help Eleazar the priest in the allotment of the promised land. At the end of Joshua's life he summoned all of Israel to gather at Shechem. He gave them a reminder of all the mighty works that God had done on their behalf, and he charged them to remain faithful to the LORD. Joshua closed his speech with the famous statement, "choose you this day whom ye will serve,? But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Crossing the Jordan River. Getting the people across the Jordan River was no easy task. It was a very large raging river and the water was full because of the flooding season. The children of Israel were very numerous, not to mention their large flocks and herds. Joshua sought the Lord and requested that the priests were to carry the Ark of the Covenant across the river first and lead the way. Then the people were to follow. As they rose up in faith they enter the water in the river parted before them. They stood in the middle of the river as all the people passed, and after they safely cross to the other side the waters returned back to their place. Joshua told the the tribal leader of each of the 12 tribes to pick up a stone from the river. Joshua gathered all the stones and erected a memorial to remind them and their children of how God brought them safely across the Jordan River into the promised land.

The Canaanites. The people of the land of Canaan were called "Canaanites" and they were made up of seven great and powerful nations. Canaan was the great grandson of Ham (Noah's son), and the Canaanites were his descendents. They were very wicked in the eyes of God and their religion was based on idolatry, human sacrifice, temple prostitution, and many other corrupt things. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked place that God destroyed during the time of Abraham. God said in the Bible that the wickedness of the Canaanites had become so great that if they were not destroyed the land itself would vomit them out. The LORD sent Israel to do just that, to destroy them and not leave a trace, lest their wicked ways become adopted by the Israelites.

Baal. The most famous of the Canaanite gods was Baal, and there were many high places on the hilltops, and groves in the wooded areas where people worshiped and sacrificed their children to Baal. Nearly every temple of Baal that has been discovered by archaeologists was first dedicated with an offering of a firstborn son.

Conquering the Land of Canaan. God, is the great Judge of the universe, and he brought judgment upon the wicked people in the land of Canaan. He told the Israelites to completely destroy them and their neighbors. Joshua was the man chosen to fulfill God's command. He led the Israelites to the Jordan River, and the river parted for them and they crossed with all the people and all their flocks and possessions. Joshua was the great commander, and they first attacked the city of Jericho(Joshua 6). Then they conquered Ai (Joshua 8). They would've destroyed Gibeon next but the Gibeonites were shrewd and deceive the Israelites into allying with them (Joshua 9). This was very strategic for it gave them the whole Western portion of the land as a rallying point to defeat the rest. Next they attacked the South and defeated Lachish, Eglon, and Hebron (Joshua 11). After this they moved to the north into the area of the Galilee region and conquered the powerful city of Hazor with their mighty chariots and took a very large territory. (Joshua 11). The conquest of the land continued but not all the land was conquered, and the wicked nations that were not conquered became a thorn in Israel side in their history. Once the Israelites conquered enough land they divided it among the tribes of Israel.

Note: it is interesting that archaeology confirms the time period and many of the events that happened on these military campaigns.

The Tribes Portions. The territories allotted to the tribes were chosen from the drawing of lots, and these were the territories from North to South:

Asher. The tribe of Asher was given the land along the northern coast with all of its lush green plains, a 12 mile wide strip stretching from the Leontes River north of the famous Phoenician city of Tyre to the upper parts of the Plain of Sharon below the foot of Mount Carmel. Some of the cities were Tyre and Dor, and Mount Carmel was also within its region.

Naphtali. The tribe of Naphtali was given the land next to the northern portion of Asher with all of its fertile hills. Running from the Leontes River in the North down to Mount Tabor and then eastward to the upper Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee (Chinnereth). Some of the cities were Hazor and Hammath.

Zebulun. The tribe of Zebulun was given the portion of land to the south of Asher and Naphtali.

Issachar. The tribe of Issachar was given the area just to the east of Zebulun and south of Naphtali.

Manasseh. The tribe of Manasseh was given a very large area of land to the south and bordering Asher, Zebulun and Issachar. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan River on the east. The beautiful plain of Sharon famous for its "lily of the valleys" and roses "Rose of Sharon"was within the boundaries of Manasseh.

Ephraim. The tribe of Ephraim was allotted the area south of Manasseh and stretching from the Jordan River on the east almost to the hills before the Mediterranean Sea on the west.

Dan. The tribe of Dan was given a small portion of land to the west and south of Ephraim. Its western border was the Mediterranean Sea. During that time Dan was not able to defeat the people on the coastal plains, which was the main portion of the land given to them, and since the hills were not big enough to contain them many of them went to the northern portion of the Jordan River and defeated the city of Laish. They changed its name to Dan and dwelt in this area.

Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was allotted a small portion of land to the south of Ephraim. Its eastern border was the Jordan River.

Judah. The tribe of Judah was allotted a very large portion of land below Dan and Benjamin. It extended from the Mediterranean Sea at the Vale of Sorek eastward through Jerusalem and over to the western coast of the Dead Sea (Salt Sea). the southern boundary was the Wilderness of Paran. The entire territory was beautiful, and it was great for farming from the rich coastal plain for grain, to the fertile hills (Shephelah) for olives and grapes, and the mountains which descended quickly down to the Dead Sea.

Simeon. The tribe of Simeon was very small and lived within the southern portion of Judah, in the South country "Negev" sharing with Judah the cities in the most southern portion of the land.

The Levites. The portion allotted to the Levites (Descendants of Levi) was the right to 48 cities that were scattered throughout the lands within all the tribal portions. The Levites were set aside as the priestly tribe, they were servants of the LORD to instruct the people in the things of God. They were also in charge of the Tabernacle, it's holy vessels, and the Ark of the Covenant.

Joshua. Joshua was rewarded by the Levites for his leadership and given a city of his own, it was called Timnath-serah which was a small insignificant place located in the hills of Ephraim. It was not until after the tribes received their portions that Joshua accepted his. It was here at Timnath-serah that the great leader Joshua died at 110 years old.

Shiloh. Shiloh was the place where lots were drawn and the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. Before Joshua died he chose the city of Shiloh to be a center for the worship of the LORD. it was here that the first city was built, the Tabernacle was erected, and the Ark of the Covenant was brought.

The 12 Tribes. The fact that there were 12 tribes was no accident, and the fact that there were 12 disciples of Jesus was no accident. The number 12 is seen in the Hebrew culture as a number of order and government. God made the promise long beforehand that he was going to raise up a people and be their God, their invisible King. He did this with the 12 sons of Jacob, and later Jacob's name was changed to Israel. The children of Israel knew that they were all the people of God, they were all descendants of the sons of Jacob. Each "tribe" was made up of individual households, and all the households formed a family, and then all the families formed a tribe.

Joshua 7:14 - "In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man."

The two Hebrew words for "tribe" both mean a sceptor or staff. Each tribe had authority and distinction from the other tribes, yet all the tribes were connected as a whole, they were all the people of God. By the time the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt they all knew what tribe, family, and household they were part of. In the days that Christ walked the earth his name would have been "Yeshua Ben Yosef" because Jesus was of the household of Joseph, yet he always referred to himself as the "son of God."

The People of God. The concept of God having a people who know him and serve him goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when the LORD mentioned that there would put "enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed." Every person in the world is either following God, or they are following the world which Satan rules. The whole earth is invited to be part of the people of God, and Jesus shows us the way.

The study of the 12 Tribes of Israel is very important in the study of the Bible, let's pray:

Dear Jesus, we thank you for the story of Joshua and the twelve tribes. We are so excited to see the faith, courage and devotion of people who you called to serve you. Help us to be strong and courageous in everything. We love you. In Jesus name? Amen!

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