Monday, December 14, 2015


Who were the 13 tribes of Israel, and why are they so important in biblical history and prophecy? What do you need to know about the 13 tribes?

  1. The Bible lists 12 sons of the patriarch Israel who each became the father of a tribe of the ancient nation of Israel. But there are in fact 13 tribes  of Israel from Genesis 49:

  1. Reuben.
  2. Simeon.
  3. Levi (this priestly tribe did not receive a territory, and sometimes is not listed when the tribe of Joseph is listed as two separate tribes).
  4. Judah.
  5. Zebulun.
  6. Issachar.
  7. Dan.
  8. Gad.
  9. Asher.
  10. Naphtali.
  11. Benjamin.
  12. Ephraim our of Joseph
  13. Manasseh our of Joseph.
Joseph became two tribes Ephraim and Manasseh and the significance of this is much greater than you may think

Let’s look at what the Bible tells us about the history and the future of the 13 tribes of Israel.

Promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be numerous (Genesis 13:1617:222:17) and that his descendants would eventually constitute “many nations” (Genesis 17:4-5). He also promised Abraham that his descendants would “possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22:17) and be “blessed” mightily by God (verses 16-18).
God also said that his descendants would be identified throughout history by the name of Abraham’s son, “Isaac” (Genesis 21:12). The blessings given to Abraham and Isaac were called the “birthright” blessings because they were passed on to successive generations as a right of their birth.
The “birthright” blessings given to Abraham were passed on to Isaac, who married Rebekah. Millions of people would descend from Isaac and Rebekah over time. In fact, they would number in the billions throughout the generations of humanity on the earth.
The blessing of numerous descendants who would possess the gates of their enemies was a continuation of the blessing God had promised Abraham that He would fulfill in Isaac (Genesis 17:17-19, 21). However, Abraham had a previous son, Ishmael, by Hagar, and Ishmael’s descendants were also prophesied to become numerous and constitute a “great nation” that would feature “twelve princes” (verse 20).
The “great nation” of Ishmael’s descendants today is the Arab world. The Arabs know that they are descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar.
If the descendants of Ishmael constitute the Arabs, the peoples who make up most of the nations in the modern Middle East, then which nations descended from Isaac? If the Bible is true, Isaac’s descendants should constitute nations more numerous, prosperous and powerful than the Arabs. The Bible is God’s truth (John 17:17)! Obviously, Isaac’s descendants in the modern world must consist of far more than just the Jews. Genesis 24:60 prophesied that Isaac’s descendants would number in the multiple millions over time.
Isaac passed his “birthright” blessings on to his son, Jacob, even though the oldest son, Esau, would normally have received them. Genesis 25:30-34 informs us that Esau “sold” his birthright to Jacob for some red stew. Then when their father, Isaac, officially passed on the birthright, Jacob deceived his father into believing he was his brother. In essence, Jacob “stole” the birthright through deception (Genesis 27).
One of the blessings Jacob received from Isaac was that other nations would bow down to the nations that would descend from Jacob (Genesis 27:29). Clearly, for this prophecy to be fulfilled, Jacob’s descendants would have to become great nations and empires. This same blessing also promised that God would bless the nations that blessed Jacob’s descendants and would curse the nations that cursed Jacob’s descendants.
God reiterated Abraham’s blessings to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-15 by saying Jacob’s descendants would be as numerous as “the dust of the earth” and they would eventually spread to all four corners of the earth from the region of the Promised LandJacob’s name was later changed to “Israel” (Genesis 32:28), and he had 12 sons who became the “12 tribes of Israel.”

The 13 tribes of Israel established

Before Jacob (Israel) died, he passed on the “birthright blessings” to his grandsons, who were named Ephraim and Manasseh. Israel gave prophetic blessings that were to be fulfilled in a time called “the last days” to all 12 of his sons (Genesis 49:1).
In Genesis 48:16, Israel blessed both Ephraim and Manasseh simultaneously with the words “let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Israel decreed that his own name, “Israel,” and the name of his own father, “Isaac,” would be placed upon the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, who were to each become a distinct tribe among Israel’s sons (Genesis 48:5). In doing this, Israel was giving Joseph a “double portion” among the 12 tribes of Israel.
Israel foretold in Genesis 48:19 that while the descendants of Manasseh would become a “great” people (or nation), the descendants of Ephraim would become a “multitude of nations.” Since Joseph was expanded into two tribes, this meant that there would now be 13 tribes of Israel, although they were often still known as “the 12 tribes of Israel” because the priestly tribe, the Levites, did not receive a territorial inheritance in the Promised Land.
In the blessings recorded in Genesis 49, Israel gave prophecies for each of the tribes named after his 12 sons. The 12 sons of Israel are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. The tribe most recognized by modern readers is Judah. Judah’s descendants have long been called “Jews.” However, Judah is just one of the sons of Israel. The vast majority of Israel’s descendants came from the other sons who were not called Jews.

The rise and fall of the 13 tribes of Israel

When the 13 tribes of Israel entered the Promised Land, they eventually formed the nation of Israel under David and Solomon. Soon after Solomon’s death, this empire was torn apart by a great civil war. The northern 10 tribes formed the kingdom of Israel, while the southern two tribes, Judah and Benjamin (joined by the priestly tribe of Levi), formed the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel was called “Israel” because it was led by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who bore the name of “Israel” (Genesis 48:16). The southern kingdom was led by the tribe of Judah.
[[It needs to be noted that the 10 tribes of Israel that were scattered by the Assyrians did not include Levites, Judahites  and Benjaminites. These three tribes later became known as Jews in the days of Jesus and the Apostles. The Apostle Paul referred to himself as a Jew. He also distinguished between a true Jew and one who was merely a practising Jew but not a true Jew. This had nothing to do with physical descent but being chosen by God. The truth of this is not discussed here, but if you desire truth, just take note.]]
The kingdoms of Israel and Judah became enemies and often fought bloody wars. Though they have not reunited, they are prophesied to do so in the future. See “Israel and Judah: When Will They Be Reunited?”
The northern kingdom of Israel went into captivity in 722 B.C. because of sin and rebellion toward God. Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians between 604 and 586 B.C.
Just before the fall of Israel, the prophet Amos noted that the northern 10 tribes were known by the name “house of Isaac” (Amos 7:16)—just as the prophecies of Genesis 21:12 and 48:16 had predicted. The name of “Isaac” followed the 10 tribes wherever they went in their exile and later migrations.
In Jeremiah 51:5, we find a prophecy, given over a century after the 10 tribes went into captivity, that they would not be forsaken by God. Though sometimes called the “10 Lost Tribes of Israel,” these peoples are not lost to God or to students of the Bible who understand how to trace their history. To understand who some of these peoples are today, see “12 Tribes of Israel Today: Who Are They?” and “Who Are the United States and Britain in Prophecy?”

Modern significance of the 12 tribes of Israel

The 12 tribes of Israel eventually grew into great nations and empires just as God had predicted. Identifying these nations today helps us understand what will occur before Christ’s return.
Some people mistakenly think that, since the establishment of the New Testament Church, the identities of these people no longer serve any purpose. The truth is that God has many more plans for the peoples who have descended from the 12 tribes of Israel after Christ returns. For additional information, be sure to read the related articles on this site.

12 Tribes of Israel Today: Who Are They?

God made many promises to Abraham and his descendants, but many of his descendants disappeared from history. Where are the 12 tribes of Israel today?

When God called Abraham, He promised him that because of his obedience, his descendants would become a great nation and that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The physical blessings God gave Abraham would continue through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, also called Israel, whose 12 sons were the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was also a spiritual promise that all nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-34).
Many have wondered where some of the peoples who came from Abraham went. Who are the 12 tribes of Israel today? Although the Bible does not specifically name the modern nations representing all of these people, there is biblical, historical and archaeological evidence that make it possible for us to positively identify the United States, Britain and many of the nations of Western Europe as the nations where descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel largely reside today. While this historical knowledge is not critical for salvation, it does help one understand end-time prophecy.

Two kingdoms

After they spent time as slaves in Egypt, God delivered Abraham’s descendants and allowed them to form the ancient nation of Israel. Over time, 10 of the tribes formed the northern kingdom of Israel and two of the tribes formed the southern kingdom of Judah. Due to their breaking of His laws, God allowed the northern kingdom to be taken captive by the Assyrians and, later, the southern kingdom to be taken by the Babylonians.
After 70 years, many of the captives of Judah returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the city. Because of this and their renewed diligence in keeping God’s Sabbath, their history continued. However, the northern 10 tribes largely disappeared from history. As a result, they are sometimes referred to as the lost 10 tribes of Israel. But while their nation disappeared, the descendants of these people continued to exist.

Israel to be sifted among the nations

In fact, God had promised that even though He would punish the people of ancient Israel for their sins, He would not completely destroy them. Instead, God said He would preserve them as He scattered them among the nations.
Speaking through the prophet Amos, God said: “‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ says the LORD. ‘For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground’” (Amos 9:8-9).
God’s faithfulness in blessing the descendants of the ancient Israelites will continue after Christ’s return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. As Jesus explained to His apostles: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Even New Jerusalem will have 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12).
Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, stated that “the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers” (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, combined translations of William Whiston, 1867, and the Standard Edition, 1960).
The introduction to the book of James says, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” which confirms that some in the early New Testament Church knew where at least some of the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel were located.

Following the clues

To follow the history of the 12 tribes of Israel after the fall of their nation to the Assyrians in 721 B.C., we must recognize the path of their deportation and identify them by the names given them by their conquerors. Various websites and books have a great deal of information connecting the 12 tribes of Israel to the nations of Western Europe and the United States today, and it would be impossible to cover all this material in this answer. But here is some of the documentation.
When the Assyrians conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, they transported many of the Israelites “to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6). Shortly after the Israelites came into these lands, scholars note the appearance of peoples in this area called Cimmerians and Scythians. The Assyrians also called them Khumri, Ghomri, Gimiri (derivatives of King Omri of Israel) and Iskuza (derivative of Isaac).
The famous Black Obelisk in the British Museum includes a pictorial etching of King Jehu of Israel bowing and paying tribute to King Shalmaneser of Assyria. The text speaks of Jehu, son (really a successor) of Omri, giving the Assyrian king silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff and spears. This was the time during which Israel paid tribute to Assyria as a vassal nation prior to rebelling and being destroyed by Assyria. 
Historian Tamara Rice writes: “The Scythians did not become a recognizable national entity much before the eighth century B.C. ... By the seventh century B.C. they had established themselves firmly in southern Russia. ... And analogous tribes, possibly even related clans, though politically entirely distinct and independent, were also centred on the Altai [Mountains of southern Russia and Mongolia]. ... Assyrian documents place their appearance there in the time of King Sargon (722-705 B.C.), a date which closely corresponds with that of the establishment of the first group of Scythians in southern Russia” (The Scythians, 1961, pp. 19-20, 44).
Boris Piotrovsky in his book From the Lands of the Scythians notes, “Two groups, Cimmerians and Scythians, seem to be referred to in Urartean and Assyrian texts, but it is not always clear whether the terms indicate two distinct peoples or simply mounted nomads. ... Beginning in the second half of the eighth century B.C., Assyrian sources refer to nomads identified as the Cimmerians; other Assyrian sources say these people were present in the land of the Mannai and in Cappadocia for a hundred years, and record their advances into Asia Minor and Egypt.
“The Assyrians used Cimmerians in their army as mercenaries; a legal document of 679 B.C. refers to an Assyrian ‘commander of the Cimmerian regiment’; but in other Assyrian documents they are called the seed of runaways who know neither vows to the gods nor oaths’” (1975, pp. 15, 18).
The Bible likewise indicates that the ancient Israelites would eventually migrate in a northwesterly direction away from Jerusalem. According to a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, God’s Servant will “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (Isaiah 49:6), and these peoples will come from “the north and the west” back to Jerusalem (verse 12).While it is certainly clear that displaced Israelites were among these peoples, we should also note that not all Scythians or Cimmerians were Israelites. “Scythian” does not necessarily refer to a specific ethnic group. But it did include Israelites, who later moved in a northwesterly direction into Europe following their collapse as a nation.

Historians link the Cimmerians with the Gauls or Celts of northwest Europe

Historian Samuel Lysons linked some of the people who populated northwest Europe with these Cimmerians. As he put it, the Cimmerians seemed “to be the same people with the Gauls or Celts under a different name” (Our British Ancestors: Who and What Were They? 1865, p. 23).
English historian and scholar George Rawlinson wrote: “We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel” (noted in his translation of History of Herodotus, Book VII, p. 378).
Danish linguistic scholar Anne Kristensen concurs, stating: “There is scarcely reason, any longer, to doubt the exciting and verily astonishing assertion propounded by the students of the Ten Tribes that the Israelites deported from Bit Humria, of the House of ’Omri, are identical with the Gimirraja of the Assyrian sources. Everything indicates that Israelite deportees did not vanish from the picture but that, abroad, under new conditions, they continued to leave their mark on history” (Who Were the Cimmerians, and Where Did They Come From? Sargon II, the Cimmerians, and Rusa I, translated from the Danish by Jørgen Læssøe, The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, No. 57, 1988, pp. 126-127).
The Bible likewise indicates that the ancient Israelites would eventually migrate in a northwesterly direction away from Jerusalem. According to a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, God’s Servant will “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (Isaiah 49:6), and these peoples will come from “the north and the west” back to Jerusalem (verse 12).

Archaeological evidence

In addition to historical evidence, Scythian burial grounds have indicated a connection between these peoples and those of Nordic ancestry. For many years, scholars believed the Scythians were Mongols because groups of these nomadic people moved east, but the discovery of art and even a frozen corpse of a Scythian warrior indicate otherwise.
In July 2006 in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia near China and Russia, scientists made a rare find. German scientists who were part of the discovery team reported that the extremely well-preserved mummy of a Scythian warrior was that of “a 30-to-40 year-old man with blond hair” (“Ancient Mummy Found in Mongolia,” Spiegel Online International, Aug. 25, 2006). Blond hair, of course, is a characteristic of Europeans not Mongols.
Prior to the discovery of this mummy, art obtained from numerous Scythian burial grounds had likewise indicated that these peoples were related to Europeans rather than Mongols. Because Scythian chiefs were buried with all their collected wealth, including wives, horses and art, detailed images of Scythians, their clothes and weapons have been uncovered. These discoveries depict their men with long, flowing locks, facial hair and Caucasian features.
In conclusion, biblical, historical and archaeological evidence indicates that descendants of the so-called 10 lost tribes of ancient Israel migrated to northwestern Europe. It is more commonly understood that many peoples from these nations also settled in the United States. For the above noted reasons, we believe that the peoples who settled in northwestern Europe and the United States are largely the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel today.

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