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What are the names of the 12 tribes of Israel?

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Quick Answer

The names of the 12 tribes of Israel are Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. These are the names of the sons and grandsons of Jacob, from which biblical tradition holds the 12 tribes descend, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

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Full Answer

The tribes of Israel are the traditional divisions of the Jewish people. Their origin is found in the story of the Jewish forefather Jacob, recorded in the biblical book of Genesis. Jacob, his sons and their families went to Egypt to escape famine in Canaan. In Egypt, the descendants of Jacob and his sons multiplied greatly and became the "Israelite people."

The book of Exodus records their departure from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. After a long journey in the wilderness, the Israelites entered the land that tradition holds God promised to them. Each tribe was given their own territory, which took the name of its settling tribe.

The Jewish Virtual Library explains that modern scholarship does not generally accept that the 12 tribes were simply divisions of a larger group developed naturally from patriarchal descent. Although there are various theories as to how the tribes came together, there is a consensus that this happened as a result of historical and religious reasons, as well as later genealogical speculation.

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