The Twelve Sons of Jacob

While reviewing the names of the twelve scouts sent by Moses into the Promised Land, I noticed the names of the two faithful scouts, Joshua and Caleb, and the tribes they represented. Joshua was from the tribe of Judah, and Caleb was from the tribe of Ephraim. What interested me was the fact that the two tribes, or families, represented by the two faithful scouts were the two tribes that later dominated the divided kingdom. Judah ruled the Southern Kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Judah, and Ephraim ruled the Northern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel.

This interesting fact caused me to think of the blessing and curses pronounced in Deuteronomy chapter 27. At the ancient village of Shechem, now known as Nablus, are two mountains; Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Moses was instructed to have six of the tribes stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce blessings and six of the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses. The six “blessing” tribes were descended from sons of Jacob by Leah and Rachel, his wives. The six “cursing” tribes were the descendants of sons of Jacob by Zilpah and Bilhah, his wives maids, plus the tribe of Zebulun.

The tribes to pronounce curses were largely the result of man, or in this case women, taking things into their own hands. Just as Abraham and Sarah circumvented the Lord’s Plan by having a child, Ishmael, by a maid, Jacob and his wives apparently circumvented the Lord’s Plan by having children by the maids of the respective wives. The families of these sons were the ones chosen to pronounce curses.

The lone exception is the tribe of Zebulun. Zebulun was the son of Jacob and Leah. There is little mention of this tribe in the Bible, and they seem to be relegated to obscurity. I can find no reason for this tribe to be included with the “cursing” tribes.

It is also interesting that the first son born via a maid was Dan, born to Bilhah. Just as Ishmael caused dissension in Abraham’s home, Dan was the trouble-maker of Israel. The tribe of Dan never took control of the land designated to them. In Genesis chapter 49, Jacob gives his blessing (and prophecy regarding their future) to his twelve sons. He proclaims Dan to be “a viper along the path.” After the blessing of Dan there is an interesting break when Jacob says, “I look for your deliverance, O Lord.” Perhaps the modern equivalent would be, “Lord, help me.” The rabbis and sages of Israel have also stated that they believe the anti-Christ will come from the tribe of Dan.

The descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs and peoples living around Israel, are still causing problems for Israel. If the rabbis are correct, the descendants of Dan will also cause problems for Israel.

The lesson for us is to not take matters into our own hands, but follow the Will of the Lord. God is sovereign and He has a perfect plan. Ask Him to lead you in His Plan. May we all always be within the Will of God.

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