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! Perhaps we’d say: 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 – they were His People, the Israelites. So I wondered how He referred to them in Scriptures.  So I looked 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). I made a chart to show the order that God reference the tribes and link to it at the end of this article. As an example, let’s compare how God listed the tribes in just THREE of the TWENTY SEVEN times:

The twelve tribes












Marching Order







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

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





Moses’ Blessing




:::::Ephraim (of Joseph)

::::::Manasseh (of Joseph)







The order that the tribes are listed is different each time. God managed to list them in a different order 25 times. Actually it actually is quite tricky to arrange the twelve tribes 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. Anytime the tribes had to march, they would march in the same order! If not there would be chaos!

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? In the last column of my chart at the end of this article I reference any tribes that are “missed”.

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! One person even let me know that knowing that some of the tribes were “left out” of the list a few times was helpful to her because she often felt “left out”. She was encouraged knowing that entire tribes were “left out” at times!

My Chart

I made a full color large print chart of all 27 ways the tribes were listed. I use the first letter of each tribe in the chart to indicate the tribe. Thus I can present the entire ordered list each time all in one row. You will notice the three rows from Numbers that start with J (for Judah) are the three times the tribes are referenced by marching order (rows 8, 9 and 10).

It would be best to view the chart 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: