“Who Are the Twelve Tribes of Israel?”

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(A painting of the Patriarch Jacob blessing his twelve sons by Latter-Day Saint artist Henry Anderson)

The 12 tribes of Israel are named after Jacob‘s twelve sons. They are (in order of age) Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Leah gave birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Leah’s maid, Zilpah, had Gad and Asher, and Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, had Dan and Naphtali.

Israelites all descended from these twelve brothers, and maintained the identity of their tribe. Following the Exodus, according to the Old Testament, descendants of Joseph were known as descendants of one of his two sons, Ephraim and Menasseh. This made for a total of 13 tribes. Some from the tribe of Levi became the priestly family, known as Kohanim. 

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