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    Q: #362. What were the names of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel?

By: Steve Shirley

    A: You can find when each of the 12 sons was born in (Gen 29:31-30:24)(Gen 35:16-18). I will list them in the order they were born (oldest to youngest), what their name means, and who their mother was.

The 12 Sons/TribesName MeansMother
1. Reuben"behold a son"Leah
2. Simeon"God hears"Leah
3. Levi"joined"Leah
4. Judah"let him [God] be praised"Leah
5. Dan"judge"Bilhah
6. Naphtali"my wrestling"Bilhah
7. Gad"good fortune"Zilpah
8. Asher"happy"Zilpah
9. Issachar"man of hire"Leah
10. Zebulun"dwelling"Leah
11. Joseph"may God add"Rachel
12. Benjamin"son of the right hand"Rachel

***Note: Jacob and Leah also had a daughter named Dinah (Gen 30:21).

     Joseph is easily the best known of the 12 sons (and was the favorite of Jacob: Gen 37:3-4), being mentioned in 16 chapters in Genesis (between Ch. 30-50). Levi was important because it was from him that the priestly line of the Levites descended. Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14)(Rev 5:5).

     There are several stories from these sons that read like a "soap opera." For example:

     Reuben, slept with Bilhah (Jacob's concubine)(Gen 35:22)(Gen 49:3-4), the mother of his two brothers Dan and Naphtali (Gen 30:3-8)(Gen 35:25). Because of this, he lost his birthright as the firstborn, with his father Israel giving it instead to the two sons of Joseph (1 Chr 5:1-2).

     In Genesis, chapter 34, a man named "Shechem" raped Dinah, the brother's sister. Shechem then begged his father to get her for him as a wife. When the brothers heard the father begging Jacob to give her to Shechem for a wife, they were very angry, and came up with a plan. Shechem, as well as all of the men of their city could marry the daughters of the Israelites if they all underwent circumcision. They agreed, and on the third day after undergoing the ritual, while they were in pain and incapacitated, Simeon and Levi went to the city and killed every single male, and brought Dinah back home. Then, all of the brothers returned and plundered the city, taking everything of value with them.

     Judah had two sons: Er and Onan. Er married a wife named Tamar, but God killed Er because he was wicked. Judah then told his son Onan to marry Tamar so that there would be an heir. Onan disobeyed, so God killed him too (Gen 38:6-10). Tamar then disguised herself as a prostitute and talked Judah into sleeping with her (Gen 38:14-18). She became pregnant, and gave birth to twins (Gen 38:27-30).

     And, of course, the most famous story of Joseph's brothers selling him to slave traders, and then telling their dad he died. Years later, Joseph went on to become 2nd in command in all of Egypt, and save his brothers and father from starvation.

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