The Significance of the Names of the Sons of Israel



This post is one of “The Tabernacle” series. Select  “The Tabernacle” under Categories to view the other posts in this series.

We have now come to the consideration of a very significant element in the Divine Revelation. Previously we were impressed with the fact that when the High Priest of Israel went into the presence of GOD in the Holy of Holies, he bore upon his shoulders and upon his breast the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, engraved upon precious stones. These names appeared in the order of the birth of these twelve sons of Jacob. Comparatively few have ever realized that the meaning of these names present the Divine order and operation of GOD’s plan of Salvation, as revealed subsequently in the Word of GOD.

Please read Revelation 7:4-8 and then read Revelation 21:12 and marvel at the wisdom and foreknowledge of GOD. Thousands of years have intervened since Aaron first bore these names into the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle; but here we find them recorded by John the Revelator, hundreds of years later. 

Please turn to Genesis 29:32-33 and follow along as we proceed. In these verses we have described the circumstances under which Jacob’s first son was born, and the name which was given to him.

As these births occur, one after the other, as Jacob’s sons are borne by four different women, to the number of twelve, we shall be astonished by the cumulative meaning and force of these scriptures.

Jacob’s first son was Reuben. It means, “Behold a son.” Leah said, “Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction.”

Next Simeon was born. He was named Simeon; as Leah said; “Because the Lord hath HEARD that I was hated.” Simeon means “to HEAR.”

Leah’s third son was named LeviBecause I have born him three sons.” Levi means “joined,” or to be joined to.

Then Leah bore a fourth son, and called his name Judah; because, she said, “Now will I praise the Lord.” Judah means “Praise“.

Next Bilhah, Rachel’s maid bore Jacob a son. And Rachel said, “God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice.” Please notice that Rachel named Bilhah’s son, as though he were her own child. She named this son, Dan. Dan means “Judging!

And Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, bore another son, and Rachel named him, Naphtali, which means “wrestling.” For, said she, “With great wrestlings have I wrestled… and I have prevailed.”

Then Zilpah, Leah’s maid, gave Jacob a son, and Leah named him Gad; “A troop cometh.”

And Leah named Zilpah’s second son Asher, “Happy am I,” she said “For the daughters will call me blessed.” Please do not miss that. So she called this son “BLESSED.”

A thoughtful perusal of verses Genesis 29:16-18 will disclose the jealous rivalry between Jacob’s wives, and Leah’s desperation because she was being neglected. Her joy is expressed because of GOD’s favour, for when another son was born, she cried, “God hath given me my hire,” and she called this son’s name Issachar, which means “wages” or “hire.”

Leah called her sixth son’s name, Zebulon. Because, she said, “I have born him six sons.” Zebulon means “to dwell.”

Then GOD heard Rachel’s prayers, and she bore a son in her later years, and she called his name Joseph; saying, “The Lord shall add to me another son.” Joseph means “to add to.”

Rachel bore Jacob a second son. She called his name Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.”

At first sight, ordinarily, one is not likely to see anything of particular significance about these names of Jacob’s sons, taken in the order of their birth. But let us consider them with the Divine plan of Salvation in mind, and see what happens. 


Now let us take these names of the sons of Jacob in order and meaning, and make an astonishing discovery.

The name Reuben, “Behold, A Son,” gives to us the first Christian message, “Behold, the Lamb of God (or Son of GOD) which taketh away the sin of the world.” This was GOD’s first word to His people, Israel, and to you and to me, as we seek salvation.

Next comes Simeon which means “HEAR.” “Behold, the Lamb of God!” On the Mount of Transfiguration, from Heaven, GOD spoke, “HEAR YE HIM!” First, the Word, then the hearing of the Word. “This is my beloved Son.”

Next comes Levi, which means “to be joined.” Joined to the Lamb of GOD. Joined to the company of the redeemed. A union accomplished and sealed by the HOLY SPIRIT. This is a blessed experience to everyone who believes.

How significant that Judah comes next. His name means “Praise.” How often have we seen the new-born child of GOD, joined to the Lord and to His saints, break out into PRAISE of His holy name. Luke 15:10 also comes to mind.

Following Judah, comes Dan. His name means “Judgment“; judgment by which we believers, in the light of GOD’s mercy and grace, are no longer under. Romans 8:1

Next in order comes Naphtali, which means “to wrestle.” This speaks of temptations and trials, and earnest prayers and intercessions, both for ourselves and for others. Ephesians 6:12 

Then came Gad, which means “A troop cometh.” This speaks of our call to go into the world and preach the Gospel to all nations. Matthew 28:19

After this what could we expect the next name to mean? It is Asher, and Asher means “HAPPY.” Oh what joy and happiness, when souls come flocking into the Kingdom of GOD! Joy in hearts and homes, and in the Church, and before the throne of GOD in the courts of Heaven. There is nothing else on earth that can compare with it; when a troop, a great company turns home to GOD. 

Certainly, Issachar comes next. Issachar means “hire.” It is in such ingatherings of precious souls, that the labourers in CHRIST’s harvest-fields receive their hire. These are not the rewards of earthly service, which are soon gone. The wages of such service are as treasures laid up in Heaven. How sweet and precious are CHRIST’s eternal rewards to His servants and harvesters, who are diligent and faithful.

Zebulon means “dwelling.” Dwelling in Beulah land, in sweet and happy fellowship with CHRIST and the Heavenly Father. (John 14.23).

Then comes Joseph, which means “adding.” Read Acts 2:42-47 for an account of the first great revival following the outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT on the Day of Pentecost. “And the Lord ADDED to the Church daily such as should be saved.” That is CHRIST’s purpose and desire for His Church everywhere, and all the time. 

How sad it is that such is so seldom the case. Hence so many churches are barren and fruitless. For only as GOD’s Israel travails in prayer and service, does she bring forth children. Only then can GOD give wonderful outpourings of His grace and love, which rightly we call REVIVALS, or renewals of DIVINE LIFE AND POWER.

Last of all comes Benjamin, “The Son Of My Right Hand.” How wonderful! For here is the destiny of the Redeemer and of the redeemed, who have known all these other experiences. They go to be with the Son at GOD’s right hand. And here we hear again the wonderful promise of our Lord to those who love and serve Him.


Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. Excellent study, Bruce. I have also done a lot of study on this subject in the past and when reading your post I suddenly saw something I never saw before. Thanks! I will have to revisit my past research and work with the new revelation. There is a whole lot here, in these verses you quoted, and there are multi-dimensional meanings. You have opened a door with this post into greater knowledge within the outer text. Keep up the good work.


  2. hello bruce,

    thank you for you putting work on the names of jacob’s sons and his wifes. I am working on what I call the passion paradigm and one of the big keys to breaking and understanding the paradigm is leah’s and Rachel’s children’s name in birth other and name. The paradigm is the passion week, the passion paradigm. The keys are best flushed out with the story of reuben and his mistakes. The incident in shechem with simeon and levi is another key by taking justice in their hands for the rape of Dinah. Joseph being sold into slavery sets up another key. Judah stepping up to take the lead to go back to Egypt with Benjamin.

    The names of Leah’s children set up the days of the week, the passion week.
    Joseph takes Reuben’s places as the eldest.
    By Joseph taking Reuben’s place, Benjamin moves into place for the youngest.

    The names of Leah’s children are still important to give meaning to the week.

    Joseph and Benjamin set up the scenario to fulfill the curse of Joshua 6:26.

    What i wrote probably makes no sense, but at least, I got to read something where someone is putting some theological value on these names. They are more important than we have used them. Without them, it is almost impossible to break the eschatological end or beginning depending on how one views the 8th day.

    If it interest you, here is the simple look at the weeks and the passion week.

    There are 15 weeks.
    There are 70 workers.
    God has seven weeks and seven workers
    Israel has seven weeks and 62 workers
    the adopted, the children of god, have one week and one worker.

    11 weeks are done to include the passion week.
    4 weeks remain, genesis (less than a second), benjamin (3 hours most like remain), 2nd pentecost (we may be heading to the middle) and 1st resurrection (might be in the 3rd day).

    The time liine for the 2nd pentecost and the 1st resurrection is resting on the middle of the week at this moment. For the 2nd pentecost, the spirit will completely leave the temple. for the 1st resurrection, the temple will fall.

    all weeks mirror the passion week.
    Jesus works the passion week.
    The passion week is the paradigm, the passion paradigm.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robert, I’ll be candid with you, I appreciate you taking the time to provide me with the overview of the passion paradigm but from history and experience, I have a tendency to stay away for any endeavor that attempts to nail down the specific time frame of our Lord’s return. Do I believe we are in the “last days”? Yes I do but my focus is on keeping connected to our Lord and I watch as per Revelation chapters 2, 3 and especially 13. If this is what you are into, that’s obviously your call. Anything that detracts one from focusing on maintaining a connect with our Lord is from my perspective, a distraction to keep us focused on something else. You probably disagree. Grace and blessings.


  3. the paradigm . . . there is a shift in the week

    day one jesus enters jerusalem . . . reuben . . . behold a son

    day two .jesus cleanses the temple . . . simeon . . . there is sin. (this is another use, but one has to go to the story of zimri.

    day three jesus askes a question about john to the religious leaders . . . levi . . . joined to

    <————————- the week shifts<
    day four . . . jesus spends the day in bethany with a dead man. judah . . . praiise (there is no praise)
    Day five becomes day four . . . this is one way of looking at it. the other is a little complicated.

    day five for day four . . . passover and last supper . . . (night) Judah . . . Praise

    day six to day four . . . cross . . . Issachar . . . the hired man

    day seven to day six . . . tomb . . . zebulun . . .glorious dwelling place

    day 8th . . . to day seven . . . resurrection . . . . dinah/shechem . . . judgment vindicated/back -shoulders

    now to get here . . . underrstand the incident in shechem and bethel should open up a different understanding of jacob's trouble. it is about seven weeks that israel will go through:

    joseph – egypt
    simeon – famine
    levi – desert
    judah – babylon
    issachar – jerusalem 70 AD
    zebulun – holocaust

    benjamin (the longest week for israel) death of rachel's children.
    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: these are Israel's seven weeks in a very short form. there are pretty much done when Israel became a nation in 1948.

    a good metaphor to understand benjamin weeks is to read from abraham to judah becoming Israel or

    Abraham . . . Isaac as the sacrifice . . . Judah becomes israel.

    so . . . you have a lot to chew on and lots of reading to uunderstand all what I have written. Looking through your blog, you seem to have taken on a lot of information

    You may have to dump a lot of your thinking and what you have learned to begin to understand the weeks. It is not albout sallvation. the whole story is about jesus.

    I have had to dump a lot of stuff. not meaning completely dumped, but realize that we have missed the point. there is almost no information of the weeks or breaking the weeks.


    • Thank you Terri. I read about your regular support helper leaving, did you find a good person to replace her yet? God’s grace, peace and blessings to you and yours.


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