The Tribes of Israel

Paul Davidson posted on the topic of the tribes of Israel, noticing that there is often evidence of a baker's dozen or so, and sometimes a shorter list than twelve. Here is a chart he made that seeks to list the tribes mentioned in various passages (click for a pdf with the details in readable size):

 

 

  • James Walker

    this is a powerful example of why the typical fundamentalist “inerrant, infallible, blah, blah” simply doesn’t work. one would think that if an all-knowing, all-powerful entity were dictating The Sacred Text to His/Her/Its prophets, the contents would be more internally consistent.

    • Matt Brown

      That in of itself is not proof that the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or infallible. Nor does it disprove the idea that the Bible is the Word of God. The message it contains is truthful and the Bible itself is consistent and accurate.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        If contradictions in the Bible are not evidence against inerrancy, then they are evidence that inerrancy is a viewpoint that violates the Bible, rejecting the evidence the Bible itself provides – or otherwise, they prove that “inerrancy” is being used to mean something other than what the natural sense of the English word conveys.

        • Matt Brown

          So you don’t believe that an infallible God inspired fallible men to write his message?

          • James Walker

            I think we differ on the meaning of the word “inspired” and on the ownership of the message being conveyed.

            • Matt Brown

              Hello James, I think the best view of inerrancy is the one that the Chicago Statement gave on Inerrancy in 1978.

              http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                I think the Chicago Declaration is truly awful, both because the word dies the death of a thousand qualifications, and because at the end of the day it still does not fit the Biblical evidence.

                • Matt Brown

                  So you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God?

              • James Walker

                I agree with Dr. McGrath. I have a whole host of issues with the Chicago Statement, not least of which is that I completely disagree with their conflating submission to the authority of the Word of God with submission to the written scriptures. I find little or no scriptural support for most of their claims in the Statement.

                • Matt Brown

                  So you don’t think the Bible is the Word of God?

                  • James Walker

                    no. that title is reserved for Jesus. the Bible contains words that, according to the authors, came from God. I certainly give those words more weight when I read the Bible in my study and meditation than I do the words ascribed to, say, King David. but I do not treat the Bible as “received text”.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Right, that’s what I mean by “The Word of God”. But you don’t think the Bible is subjective and on the same level as any other text?

                    • James Walker

                      I don’t equate the Bible with Scripture necessarily. the filter I use in reading the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16, coupled with Jesus’ exposition of the Great Commandments. anything that is not useful to supply me with Doctrine, with Instruction, etc. is not scripture for me. of the passages in the Bible that do purport to give Doctrine, if they don’t result in behavior indicative of loving God and loving my neighbor then those are also not scripture for me.

                      by way of example, the passages in the Bible that condone slavery or mass murder, while interesting from the perspective of the traditions of the Jewish people and the origins of Christianity, are not scripture in my view and do not inform my moral or ethical behavior.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Ok. Thank you James for your viewpoint:) Any favorite Bible passages, verses, or stories you got?

                    • James Walker

                      not that it’s terribly relevant to the OP, but right now I find myself really drawn to the gospel of Matthew. I’ve learned that the early church may have used Matthew for their liturgical cycle and I very much enjoy feeling connected to the traditions of my faith.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Yes. Don’t you just love Jesus? I want to live for him everyday of my life. I love what he has done for me.

  • houseman

    They are consistent. One must only read the account in context fully, is all. There were only 12 sons of Jacob/Israel; those found in the Scriptural account found at Genesis 46, 49 and Numbers 26. Those are the names of the paternal ‘sons’ of Israel. The account tells of him blessing Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own, but they are not his sons, grandsons.
    When the account is read and it is added names that should not then you will get inaccuracies, inconsistencies. Knowing why some names were omitted and others added, would help also. The song of Moses, Simeon was the only tribal name left out.
    Then if the writer is combining the son of sons(Ephraim/Manasseh) as a tribe then the context of the account makes sense. Knowing the blessing Jacob gave to the younger of the brothers, Ephraim. He was to become a much mightier nation, more than his older brother. Joseph tried to avert this blessing since it should go to the eldest child. But Jacob knew what he was doing, and Ephraim got the blessing.
    Just knowing the complete facts can bring understanding of what is going on, with Bible accounts as they were written.

  • houseman

    ● Why do not the tribes of Ephraim and Dan appear among those of spiritual Israel as given at Revelation 7:4-8?
    It is clear from the Scriptures that Jehovah purposed the number twelve, the multiple of two symbolically complete numbers, three and four, to represent organizational completeness. This is seen not only in there being twelve sons of Jacob and twelve tribes of Israel, but also in there being “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”—Rev. 21:14.

    Early in the wilderness journey the tribe of Levi was exchanged for all the first-born survivors, who belonged to Jehovah by reason of his sparing them on the night of the first Passover. So as to have twelve tribes again, the tribe of Joseph was divided into two tribes, those of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.—Num. 3:12, 13, 41; 10:14-28.

    It follows that in listing the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel not all the names of the tribes could appear and there still be only the symbolic number of twelve. It might be thought that the original twelve tribes would be named in the book of Revelation, but not so. The tribes of Ephraim and Dan are omitted there as not deserving of symbolic significance. Why?

    Ephraim had had a most favored start. Jehovah himself had said of Ephraim, “He is my first-born.” (Jer. 31:9) Ephraim, though the younger of Joseph’s two sons, inherited the right of the first-born by reason of Jacob’s blessing upon him.—Gen. 48:13-20.

    In spite of this favored start the tribe of Ephraim produced a notoriously bad record. It grumbled against its inheritance in the land; it “vehemently tried to pick a quarrel with” Gideon; it fought against Jephthah; and concerning it we further read: “The sons of Ephraim, though armed shooters of the bow, retreated in the day of fight.” No wonder that Jehovah “proceeded to reject the tent of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim he did not choose. But he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.”—Josh. 17:14, 15; Judg. 8:1; 12:1-6; Ps. 78:9, 67, 68.

    Ephraim took the lead in the rebellion against the house of David as represented by Jeroboam. More than that, it despised the covenant for the kingdom, warring against the kingdom of Judah, and it poured contempt upon the covenant of Levi by establishing rival calf worship throughout the ten-tribe kingdom. Concerning Ephraim we further read: “They did not keep the covenant of God, and in his law they refused to walk.” “O Ephraim, you have played the harlot.” “Ephraim is a cake not turned”; meaning that it was halfhearted in its devotion to Jehovah God.—1 Ki. 12:25-30; 2 Chron. 13:3-20; Ps. 78:10; Hos. 5:3; 7:8, RS.

    However, it is to be noted that Ephraim is really represented in Joseph his father, for Joseph’s other son, Manasseh, is given a separate individual mention and standing in the list.

    The tribe of Dan also made a bad name for itself. The very terms of the blessing upon this tribe, as uttered by Jacob upon his deathbed, imply this tribe would take an unfavorable course: “Let Dan prove to be a serpent by the roadside, a horned snake at the wayside, that bites the heels of the horse so that its rider falls backward.”—Gen. 49:17.

    It is also noteworthy that the only ancient historical incident specifically dealing with the Danites tells of some of them falling away to idolatry. Apparently they were the first to do so. Thus in the Targum of Jonathan “Dan” is a byword for idolatry. When Jeroboam instituted calf worship, he did so by setting up one of the calves at the chief city of the Danites, the city of Dan: “They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, As thy god, O Dan, liveth; . . . they shall fall, and never rise up again.” (Judg. 18:1-31; Amos 8:14, AS) Dan’s place was taken by Manasseh in Revelation 7:6.

    In view of the foregoing it is easy to see why the names of Ephraim and Dan do not appear among the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel.


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