Tuesday, January 31, 2012

12 Tribes of Israel – locations in modern times

I received a request to show where, in modern times, the 12 tribes of Israel are located.  I was hoping to find a present-day map of Israel and its surrounding areas with the tribal areas superimposed on it, but no such luck.  I’ve taken the following two maps from Wikipedia – the one on top obviously shows the tribes, the one on bottom is present-day.  With words, I’ll try to further describe.

Reuben was the first-born son.  His land allotment was to the east of the Dead Sea, in present-day Jordan.  It included Mount Nebo, where Moses was given a view of the promised land --  "And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho." (Deuteronomy 34:1), although there is apparently some dispute among scholars of whether this is, in fact, the “same” Mount Nebo.
Simeon, the second-born son, had his allotment fully enclosed within his brother Judah’s to the west and heading south of the Dead Sea.  Simeon is seen as one of the lesser tribes.  However, the fairly well-known city of Beersheba is located within the territory.  Today, Russian and Ethiopian Jews immigrate there, making it the 7th largest city in Israel.
The tribe of Levi was not allocated a specific territory as they were not allowed to own land due to their status of serving in the priesthood.  The Jewish Encyclopedia includes the following cities as being those allocated to the Levites:   Hebron, Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, Holon, Debir, Ain, Juttah, and Beth-shemesh within Judah’s land; in the territory of Benjamin their cities were Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth, and Almon; from Ephraim they took Shechem, Gezer, Kibzaim, and Beth-horon; from Dan, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Aijalon, and Gath-rimmon; from the tribe of Manasseh, Tanach, Gath-rimmon, Golan, and Beeshterah; from Issachar, Kishon, Dabareh, Jarmuth, and En-gannim; from Asher, Mishal, Abdon, Helkath, and Rehob; from Naphtali, Kedesh, Hammoth-dor, and Kartan; from Zebulun, Jokneam, Kartah, Dimnah, and Nahalal; from Reuben, Bezer, Jahazah, Kedemoth, and Mephaath; and from Gad, Ramoth in Gilead, Mahanaim, Heshbon, and Jazer.
Judah received a large portion of land in southern Israel, west of the Dead Sea.  Bethlehem and Hebron are perhaps the most familiar city-names for us today.
The tribe of Dan received land in southern Israel along the Mediterranean Sea.  The city of Jaffa (today incorporated into the city of Tel Aviv) is an ancient port associate with the story of Jonah.  The port was also that in which the cedars for Solomon’s Temple were delivered.
Naphtali was allotted land in northern Israel, immediately west of the Sea of Galilee (not marked on either map, but the smaller blue body north of the Dead Sea).  Today this area is known as the Upper and Lower Galilee.  The most important city was Hazor (currently called “Tel Hazor” or “Tell el-Qedah”) which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 as one of the Biblical Tells (a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries).
Gad was allocated the land east of the River Jordan just north of the Dead Sea.  The borders between Gad and Reuben were tenuous at best, but the cities of Ramoth, Jaezer, Aroer, and Dibon are usually associated with Gad.  Today this area is located in the country of Jordan.  Modern-day Dhibon is chiefly Islamic and a fairly prosperous Jordanian city.
Asher’s allotment was just west of Gad, in northern Israel along the Mediterranean Sea.  The climate was such that the land was fertile and produced olives in such quantities that the tribe of Asher was fairly prosperous.  The cities of Tyre and Sidon are today in Lebanon.  They are perhaps best-known to us as being locations where Jesus went and healed a Gentile (Matthew 15:21 and Mark 7:24). 
The tribe of Issachar was allotted land just south of the Sea of Galilee and west of the Jordan River.  According to the books of Kings, the royal palace of King Ahab was located in the city of Jezreel, part of this territory.  In modern times, this location is an archaeological site, having been excavated in 1987 when ruins were first discovered.
Zebulun’s land lies just west of Issachar and surrounded by his brothers’ Manassah, Naphtali, and Asher’s allotments.  It is possible that the city of Nazareth was located within this area, although I’m certain others would claim it elsewhere.  Nazareth is visited by many Christians today as Jesus resided there during his life.
Joseph, the allotter of the land, isn’t traditionally attributed with having a portion.  Rather, the portions of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  These lands are west of the Jordan River and go west to the Mediterranean Sea.  Ephraim’s portion was the southern part.  Tel Aviv is probably the most-well-known current-day city in this region.  It is the second largest city in Israel and is often considered the capital by foreign countries as Jerusalem is (sadly) in dispute.
Benjamin, the youngest son of Israel, received a portion of the land between Ephraim and Judah, just west of the Jordan.  Within its small boundaries lie both Bethlehem and Jericho, with which we are quite familiar.  Jericho is the lowest permanently inhabited site in the world and may be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.  Bethlehem, of course, is where Jesus was born.  Today the population is mostly Islamic, although it is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities.  Tourists flock to the area at Christmas and Jews and Christians alike visit Rachel’s tomb which is located at the northern entrance to Bethlehem.
I would personally love to visit Israel some day and am certain that I would be overwhelmed both with awe and the amount of history surrounding me.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In our reading-through-the-Bible-in-one-year process, I’m currently in the book of Jeremiah.  Given that he also wrote the book Lamentations (as well as usually being credited with authoring I and II Kings), I don’t always find joy reading his words.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of God’s word, but I personally find some parts more enjoyable to read than others.  Jeremiah offers Israel some hope for the coming Messiah (particularly "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah 23:5-6)).  For the most part, however, it seems to me that he’s predicting (correctly!) bad event upon bad event for Israel due to their unrighteousness and the fact that they keep turning away from God.  Personally, I find it quite comforting that God is called “Father” – as a parent, I know that I will always love my children, and I thus believe God will always love me.  As a parent, I am disappointed and punish my children when they misbehave and appreciate that my Father also can and will and does discipline me.  I suppose what’s so difficult for me to read in Jeremiah is that Israel doesn’t learn from their mistakes – when I discipline my children, they most often don’t repeat the behavior for which they’ve been reprimanded.  However, Israel (and, I have to admit I) keep sinning.  Which brings us to a head – since I hate my own sin and am helpless without God to stop, I feel as I am Israel, only subject to God’s wrath and punishment.  Like many (most?) people, I most hate to be confronted by that which I am most ashamed.
In any event, to help myself appreciate Jeremiah more, I’ve done a bit of investigating to see what is known or believed about him as a person.  Anyone who has such a direct line to God deserves respect in my belief, so here are some facts:
·          Jeremiah was a Jewish priest and came from a landowning family
·         His father was named Hilkiah and believed to be the prophet and High Priest Hilkiah (Hilkijah) noted in scriptures
·         His God-given purpose was to turn the Israelites towards repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices
·         Jeremiah’s people and even his family rejected his prophesies
·         Jeremiah was called to prophesy in around 626BC, at around the age of 20, roughly 100 years after Isaiah
·         Jeremiah wasn’t an entirely willing prophet – similar to Moses he told God he was unable to speak.  God touched his lips and enabled him to prophesy
·         Naysayers sought to kill Jeremiah – he was continually persecuted, which seems to have resulted in the Lamentations
·         During his time, there were a great number of false prophets. God had Jeremiah speak against these
·         Similar to Jesus, Jeremiah’s teachings often come through the use of parables – linen belts, wineskins, a potter, and fields all play part in his instruction
·         Besides the various messianic quotes, another known one in Jeremiah is "Thus saith the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord Who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:23)
·         Jeremiah, understandably, was quite discouraged at times during his prophesying.  The people were so far away from God that they didn’t want to hear anyone talk to them about it.  Yet God gave him the strength and courage to keep on going. 
After completing this, I have a greater appreciation for Jeremiah.  It is often difficult to do as God wishes, yet he persevered against a lot of hardship and persecution (reminds me a bit of Paul).  Personally, I need to remember Luke 12:48 “For everyone to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.”  I’m now seeing Jeremiah as an example to aspire to as opposed to merely a doomsayer I wish to avoid.
One resource I personally enjoyed as a challenge for myself can be found at http://www.biblecentre.org/ebooks/The%20prophet%20Jeremiah.pdf.  May you find it helpful as well.
Have a blessed week.