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In the list of 12 Jewish tribes, which corresponds to Joseph? Out of the 12 tribe names, nothing is similar to the name Joseph.

For example, in 1 Chronicles 12:23-39 the divisions in David's forces at the "unification" of North and South are listed. The "twelve tribes" are there, minus Joseph: v25 - Judah; v26 - Simeon; v27 - Levi; v30 - Benjamin; v31 - Ephraim; v32 - Manasseh; v33 - Issachar; v34 - Zebulun; v35 - Naphtali; v36 - Dan; v37 - Asher; v38 - Reuben.

Twelve tribes, but no Joseph?

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Joseph's sons were Ephraim and Manasseh,

Gen. 41:51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.”

Gen. 41:52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

These became, in a sense, Jacob's sons:

Gen. 48:5 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.

Moreover, the tribe of Levi had no inheritance in Israel:

Josh 13:33 But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance;

Thus, when listing the tribes of Israel according to their inheritance, the tribe of Levi is not mentioned, and Ephraim and Manasseh replace Joseph - thus maintaining the original number of tribes (12).

  • Related as far as clearing misunderstanding. It always bothers me when people call them the half tribes...they are whole tribes! The half tribe thing was just for the half of Manasseh that was on the west side of the Jordan river, separate from the other half. But somehow someone misunderstood that and propagated the idea that Ephraim and Manasseh as a whole are somehow half tribes. I think this has led to some confusion as people use that concept to do the math and come up 1 tribe short even after removing Levi. – Joshua Nov 4 '15 at 16:42
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This is just by way of postscript and supplement to a (good!) answer already provided.

The lists of tribes given in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament typically are as @Niobius describes: Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, replace both Joseph and Levi, most obviously in the tribal settlements during the "conquests" of Joshua/Judges. This is also how they appear in the tribal allotments in Ezekiel's vision of a future renewed Israel (Ezekiel 48:1-7 + 23-27, for the seven tribes north of the holy city, followed by the five tribes to the south). The principle is even spelled out at Ezekiel 47:13 (ESV):

Thus says the Lord GOD: "This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. ..."

This is according to the system of inheritance, summarized in 48:29 -

29 This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel (lĕšibṭê yiśraʾel), and these are their portions, declares the Lord GOD.

However, the holy city - renewed Jerusalem - is laid out in a square (Ezek 48:16), with three gates on each of the four sides = twelve gates in all. These, in distinction from the land allocation, correspond to the twelve tribes as sons rather than "units of inheritance", reverting to Joseph and Levi (Ezek 48:30-34):

30 "These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, 31 three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel (ʿal-šĕmôt šibṭê yiśraʾel). 32 On the east side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. 33 On the south side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali."

So clearly both "tribal" configurations were known and remembered (compare 48:29 and 48:31!), even though the "Ephraim/Manasseh" system emphatically predominates.

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Based on the meaning of Manasseh and Ephraim, Ephraim is more fitted to be first because God has transformed the difficulties Joseph was facing into blessings. Manasseh on the other hand seemed to connect Joseph to be connected back to his Abraham. It is appropriate to be transformed before connecting back to God. Before Joseph was connected back to his father's house God transformed him. God Ephraim Joseph before he was Manasseh back to his father's house. This is the order to go back to our heavenly Father. We must first be transformed by the renewing of our minds before we have a relationship with Abba. We cannot enter His presence just any kind of way. Blessings!

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    This answer doesn't make much sense unless you already know the meaning of Manasseh and Ephraim. Please edit it to explain further. – curiousdannii Sep 20 '16 at 13:33

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