Twelve Tribes

Jewish History >> Twelve Tribes

Reuben (ראובן)
Birth – Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, as she had declared, “Because Hashem has discerned my humiliation, for now my husband will love me.” (Bereishit 29:32)
Blessing – lost his right to national leadership due to the incident with Bilhah
Census – 46,500 (Bamidbar 1:21) – leader: Elitzur the son of Shedeur; 43,730 (Bamidbar 26:7)
Territories – Yehoshua 13:15-23
Breastplate Gem – Odem (Ruby)
Symbol – Dudaim (Mandrakes)
Color – Red

Simeon (שׁמעון)
Birth – And she conceived again and bore a son and declared, “Because Hashem has heard that I am unloved, He has given me this one also,” and she called his name Simeon. (Bereishit 29:33)
Blessing – lost his right to national leadership due to his rage
Census – 59,300 (Numbers 1:23) – leader: Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai; 22,200 (Bamidbar 26:14)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:1-9 – leader: Samuel the son of Ammihud (Bamidbar 34:20)
Breastplate Gem – Pitedah (Emerald)
Symbol – City of Shechem
Color – Green

Levi (לוי)
Birth
– Again she conceived, and bore a son and declared, “This time my husband will become attached to me for I have borne him three sons”; therefore, He called his name Levi. (Bereishit 29:34)
Blessing – lost his right to national leadership due to his rage
Census – 7,500 (Gershonites-Bamidbar 3:22) – leader: Eliasaph the son of Lael; 8,600 (Koathites-Bamidbar 3:28) – leader: Elizaphan the son of Uziel; 6,200 (Merarite-Bamidbar 3:34) – leader: Zuriel the son of Abihail
Territories – none
Breastplate Gem – Bareket (multi-colored stone)
Symbol – Choshen (Breastplate)
Color – Red, White, and Black

Mishkan (Tabernacle) Responsibilities:

Gershonites – The Tent, its cover, and the screen for the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the hangings of the courtyard, the screen at the entrance to the courtyard, which is around the Mishkan and the altar, its ropes, as well as all the work involved (Numbers 3:25-26)

Koathites – The ark, the table, the menorah, the altars, and the holy utensils with which they would minister, and the screen and all the work involved (Numbers 3:31)

Merarites – The planks of the Mishkan, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets, all its utensils, and all the work involved, the pillars of the surrounding courtyard, their sockets, their stakes, and their ropes (Numbers 3:36-37)

Levite Cities
*Cities of Refuge

Tribe of Reuben – Heshbon, Jahaz, Bezer*
Tribe of Simeon – Ain, Jattir, Eshtemoa
Tribe of Judah – Juttah, Libnah, Hebron*
Tribe of Dan – Beth-shemesh, Elteke*
Tribe of Naphtali – Kedesh*
Tribe of Gad – Ramoth-Gilead*
Tribe of Asher – Jokneam, Helkath, Abdon, Rehob
Tribe of Issachar – Taanach, Dobrath, Hammoth-dor
Tribe of Zebulun – Dimnah, Kishion
Tribe of Ephraim – Gezer, Lower Beth-horon, Upper Beth-horon, Shechem*
Tribe of Manasseh – Ashtaroth, Golan*, Jarmuth, En-gannim, Gath-rimmon
Tribe of Benjamin – Aljalon, Gibeon, Geba, Almon, Anathoth

Judah (יהודה)
Birth – She conceived again, and bore a son and declared, “This time let me gratefully praise Hashem”; therefore she called his name Judah; then she stopped giving birth. (Bereishit 29:35)
Blessing – gained the right to national leadership and royalty as well as the ancestor of the Mosiach (Messiah)
Census – 74,600 (Bamidbar 1:27) – leader: Nahshon the son of Amminadab; 76,500 (Bamidbar 26:22)
Territories – Yehoshua 15:1-63 – leader: Caleb the son of Jephunneh (Bamidbar 34:19)
Breastplate Gem – Nofech (Carbuncle)
Symbol – Lion
Color – Sky Blue

Dan (דן)
Birth – Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, He has also heard my voice and has given me a son.” She therefore called his name Dan. (Bereishit 30:5-6)
Blessing – the defender of the people
Census – 62,700 (Bamidbar 1:39) – leader: Ahi’ezer the son of ‘Ammishaddai; 64,400 (Bamidbar 26:43)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:40-48 – leader: Bukki the son of Jogli (Bamidbar 34:22)
Breastplate Gem – Tarshish (Chrysolite Amber)
Symbol – Snake
Color – Sapphire Blue

Naphtali (נפתלי)
Birth – Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant, conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, “Sacred schemes have I maneuvered to equal my sister, and I have also prevailed!” And she called his name Naphtali. (Bereishit 30:7-8)
Blessing – swift on his feet and able to praise and give thanks with beautiful words
Census – 53,400 (Bamidbar 1:43) – leader: Ahira’ the son of ‘Enan; 45,400 (Bamidbar 26:50)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:32-39 – leader: Pedahel the son of Ammihud (Bamidbar 34:28)
Breastplate Gem – Shevo (Turquoise)
Symbol – Deer
Color – Burgundy

Gad (גד)
Birth – Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant, bore Jacob a son. And Leah declared, “Good luck has come!” So she called his name Gad. (Bereishit 30:10-11)
Blessing – warrior and defender of the people
Census – 45,650 (Bamidbar 1:25) – leader: Eliasaph the son of De’uel; 40,500 (Bamidbar 26:18)
Territories – Yehoshua 13:24-28
Breastplate Gem – Achlamah (Calf-Eye or Crystal or Amethyst)
Symbol – Army
Color – Gray

Asher (אשׁר)
Birth – Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant, bore a second son to Jacob. Leah declared, “In my good fortune! For women have deemed me fortunate!” So she called his name Asher. (Bereishit 30:12-13)
Blessing – successful farmer (specifically olive trees)
Census – 41,500 (Bamidbar 1:41) – leader: Pag’iel the son of ‘Ochran; 53,400 (Bamidbar 26:47)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:24-31 – leader: Ahihud the son of Shelomi (Bamidbar 34:27)
Breastplate Gem – Leshem (Topaz or Opal)
Symbol – Olive Tree
Color – Pearl

Issachar (ישׂשכר)
Birth – God hearkened to Leah; and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. And Leah declared, “God has granted me my reward because I gave my maidservant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar. (Bereishit 30:17-18)
Blessing – great Torah scholar, decider of Torah laws, and determine the Jewish calendar (specifically leap years)
Census – 44,400 (Bamidbar 1:29) – leader: Nethanel the son of Zu’ar; 64,300 (Bamidbar 26:25)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:17-23 – leader: Paltiel the son of Azzan (Bamidbar 34:26)
Breastplate Gem – Sapir (Sapphire)
Symbol – Sun and Moon
Color – Bluish Black

Zebulun (זבולן)
Birth – Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will make his permanent home with me for I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun. (Bereishit 30:19-20)
Blessing – fisherman, keeper of harbors, and Torah scholar
Census – 57,400 (Bamidbar 1:31) – leader: Eliab the son of Helon; 60,500 (Bamidbar 26:27)
Territories – Yehoshua 19:10-16 – leader: Elizaphan the son of Parnach (Bamidbar 34:25)
Breastplate Gem – Yahalom (Pearl or Diamond)
Symbol – Ship
Color – White

Joseph (יוסף)
Birth – God remembered Rachel; God hearkened to her and He opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” So she called his name Joseph, saying, “May Hashem add on for me another son.” (Bereishit 30:22-24)
Blessing – inherits the heritage of Jacob (and by extension Abraham)
Census – 40,500 (Ephraim-Bamidbar 1:33) – leader: Elishama’ the son of ‘Ammihud, 32,200 (Manasseh-Bamidbar 1:35) – leader: Gamliel the son of Pedazur; 32,500 (Ephraim-Bamidbar 26:37), 52,700 (Manasseh-Bamidbar 26:34)
Territories – Ephraim-Yehoshua 16:1-10 – leader: Kemuel the son of Shiphtan (Bamidbar 34:24); Manasseh-Yehoshua 13:29-32;17:7-18 – leader: Hanniel the son of Ephod (Bamidbar 34:23)
Breastplate Gem – Shoham (Onyx or Emerald)
Symbol – Ox; Young Bull (Ephraim); Wild Ox (Manasseh)
Color – Black; Red-Violet (Ephraim); Violet (Manasseh)

Benjamin (בּינמין)
Birth – They journeyed from Beth-el and there was still a stretch of land to go to Ephrath, when Rachel went into labor and had difficulty in her childbirth. And it was when she had difficulty in her labor that the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you. And it came to pass, as her soul was departing – for she died – that she called his name Ben Oni, but his father called him Benjamin. (Bereishit 35:16-18)
Blessing – warrior and defender of the people
Census – 35,400 (Bamidbar 1:37) – leader: Abidan the son of Gideoni; 45,600 (Bamidbar 26:41)
Territories – Yehoshua 18:11-28 – leader: Elidad the son of Chislon (Bamidbar 34:21)
Breastplate Gem – Yashfeh (Jasper)
Symbol – Wolf
Color – All colors of the other 11 tribes