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a collection of families descending from one ancestor


also known as: Israelites, The 12 Tribes of Israel, Hebrews (having sprung from Heber (Eber), the founder of the Hebrew race)

The “12 tribes” of the Hebrews were the twelve collections of families which descended from the sons of Jacob (Israel). Collectively, the tribes were known as “Israel” and the “Israelites.”

Tribes of Israel

Map of the tribal division of land

Map of the ancient Israelite tribal territories in the Promised Land. CC BY-SA 3.0 / 12 tribus de Israel.svg / 12 Tribes of Israel Map.svg
The approximate location and boundaries of the 12 Israelite tribes, based on records in the Book of Joshua. This, and more, was The Promised Land given by God to the descendants of Israel, the grandson of Abraham. The full extent of the Canaanite land promised was never acquired, due to the repeated disobedience of the Israelites during the their commanded conquest of this very idolatrous, heathen land, after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and the following 40 years of Divine punishment wandering in the wilderness, before Joshua and the living descendants were allowed to enter the land, following the death of Moses.
Compare the much smaller, modern State of Israel (population 8,730,160 people 2017 estimate)

A type

The modern identity of the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel are thought by most to be almost totally lost, leaving only the Jews (the descendants of Judah). However, the identity of the 12 tribes is not unknown to God. In the book of Revelation, He reveals that 12,000 repentant and regenerate descendants—followers of the true Messiah (the 2nd Adam, the Son of God), will be revealed on Earth during the Tribulation period, prior to the Millennium.

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying,

“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

The 144,000

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.

After these things I [the Apostle John] looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:1-10 NASB

Tribes of the Earth

In Matthew 24:30 the word ‘tribe’ has a wider significance.

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. —Matthew 24:30 NASB


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