The Twelve Tribes of Israel
Who’s First, Who’s Last, Does it matter?

Does it matter? “Of course it matters,” I hear some of you say.

Um… yeah.  We just might want it that way today – at least here in America! List them all, list them in order, list them properly.

But what does God think about it? We can get an inkling by looking at how GOD refers to the twelve tribes. When I saw this I was excited … I hope you are too!

I wondered about those twelve tribes.  They were very important to God. So I wondered how He referred to them.  So I looked in the Bible for all the places that the twelve tribes are referenced. As I found each reference I got more and more excited (they are referenced 27 times, so that’s lots of excitement). Follow along with me with just three examples, from Genesis, Numbers and Deuteronomy (a better chart is at the end):

The twelve tribes
(Genesis)

Reuben

:Simeon

::Levi

:::Judah

::::Dan

:::::Naphtali

::::::Gad

:::::::Asher

::::::::Issachar

:::::::::Zebulun

::::::::::Joseph

:::::::::::Benjamin


Marching Order
(Numbers)

Judah

:Issachar

::Zebulun

:::Reuben

::::Simeon

:::::Gad

::::::Levi

:::::::Ephraim (of Joseph)

::::::::Manasseh (of Joseph)

:::::::::Benjamin

::::::::::Dan

:::::::::::Asher

::::::::::::Naphtali


Moses’ Blessing
(Deuteronomy)

Reuben

:Judah

::Levi

:::Benjamin

::::Joseph

:::::Ephraim (of Joseph)

::::::Manasseh (of Joseph)

:::::::Zebulun

::::::::Issachar

:::::::::Gad

::::::::::Dan

:::::::::::Naphtali

::::::::::::Asher

And the tribes listed in Revelation were in a different order as well. The order that the tribes are listed is different each time. God managed to list them in a different order 25 times (actually it is almost tricky to be able to list them differently that many times)! It is almost like God went out of his way to always list them differently! The only time that the order was listed exactly the same was in Numbers, when the tribes marched out (and that is because our God is a God of order – and anytime the tribes had to march, they would march in the same order!)

And did you notice that when Moses gave his blessings to the tribes, Simeon is missing in the list? And in Revelations, did you notice that Dan and Ephraim are missing?

Somehow, this seems to me like God letting us know that we should quit being so concerned about who is first, second and third … and even not to worry if everyone is mentioned equally all the time!  Don’t get hung up on this perhaps.  Don’t worry about the order … just enjoy the journey! I know this is quite comforting to me!

I made a full color large print chart of all 27 ways the tribes were listed (with three in a row the same as the tribes were marching out). It would be best to view it as a PDF so you can zoom and choose how to print), but I also am providing a PNG image of the chart in case you can’t view PDF files.

Click=> Twelve Tribes as God Lists Them chart

PNG image: