The story of Jacob and his 12 sons is one of the most beloved in the Bible. It’s a story that spans many generations, spanning from the time before Joseph was sold into slavery, to when Joseph is revealed to his brothers, to their time in Egypt, and finally to their journey back home.
There are many different interpretations of how this story should be read, but there are some common themes that are consistently present: family, loyalty, and faithfulness.
The story of Jacob, as told in the Bible, is one of the most important stories in all of history. It contains many themes that have been repeated over and over again throughout history.
Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, who were both descendants of Abraham. In fact, Jacob’s name means “heel,” which refers to how he was born holding onto Esau’s heel. Esau was born first but later became a hunter and a man who could not sit still—both traits that would be passed on to Jacob.
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Jacob’s Sons In The Bible
Jacob had twelve sons, and he worked hard to gain favor with his father Isaac by working as a shepherd for his other brother Esau. One day, while out tending his flocks, he met Rachel, who was married to his uncle Laban at the time. After seven years of hard work, he was finally able to marry her (with Laban’s blessing). He then went on to earn another wife—Leah—by tricking his father-in-law into giving him more than one wife per family custom at the time (Laban had two daughters).
After marrying Leah, she gave birth to six sons followed by two daughters from her sister Rachel before dying during childbirth with her second son Benjamin.
Jacob and his twelve sons are the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel, which includes the House of Judah and the House of Joseph. Jacob’s story is told in Genesis chapters 25 through 48.
Jacob had a twin brother, Esau, who was born first; but when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some lentils, it became clear who would be in charge of the family. Esau grew up to be an outdoorsman and hunter, while Jacob preferred to stay inside and study Torah.
The story goes that Jacob married twice—first Leah and then Rachel—and he fathered 12 sons: Reuben (his oldest), Simeon (second oldest), Levi (third oldest), Judah (fourth oldest), Issachar (fifth oldest), Zebulun (sixth oldest), Dan (seventh oldest), Gad (eighth oldest), Asher (ninth oldest), Naphtali (tenth oldest), Joseph (eleventh youngest son) and Benjamin (twelfth youngest).
The Bible is full of stories about fathers, sons, and the impact they have on each other. But what makes a father? What makes a son? And how do you know if you’re being a good father or son?
In this blog series, we’ll take a look at how different Biblical fathers responded to their sons and what that says about who they were as fathers. We’ll also look at how some sons reacted to their fathers—and what that says about them as sons.
As always, these posts are meant for personal reflection, not for quotation or citation.
12 Sons Of Jacob Bible Verse
Jacob was a busy man. If you don’t believe me, then look no further than the number of children he had with his four wives, two concubines, and various other women. The number is difficult to pin down because it varies across translations and sources. But Abraham’s family was so large, in fact, that it eventually grew into all 12 tribes of Israel. (Not to mention the fact that Jacob was also known as Israel.) In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of each of Jacob’s sons and the role they played in their father’s life, the life of their brother Joseph (yes, we’ll get to him), and eventually their own children and grandchildren many generations later.
Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, and the firstborn son of Leah. He was named Reuben, which means “behold, a son.” His mother had been infertile for years due to her husband’s curse; it wasn’t until she said she would give birth if he slept with her maidservant that Isaac became interested in having children with his wife again (Genesis 29:31-35).
Reuben was born before Jacob took Rachel as his second wife. While he did not have many children compared to other sons of Jacob (Judah had 38 sons), some important figures in the Bible are descendants of Reuben: Moses is descended from him through Phinehas (Numbers 26:5) and Gideon through Abiezer (Judges 8:30).
Simeon was the second son of Jacob and Leah, born in Canaan. Simeon’s mother was Leah and his father was Jacob.
Jacob had three wives: Leah, Rachel and Bilhah. Each wife had a separate dowry and each of them brought different gifts to their marriage with Jacob. The children produced by each wife were: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah from Leah; Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah from Rachel; Dan and Naphtali from Bilhah
Levi was the third son of Jacob and Leah. He was the ancestor of the Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Levi married four women: Zilpah, Bilhah, Rachel and Leah’s maidservant (Genesis 29:29). In some traditions he has been identified as being born to his mother after she had given up hope of having a child (which would make him a miraculous birth).
Levi fathered three sons with these four women: Reuben (Genesis 29:32–35), Simeon (Genesis 30:6–8), Judas (Genesis 29:35), Dan (Genesis 30:9–13) and Naphtali (Genesis 30:16–18). They were named after his grandfathers Reuben and Simeon respectively. Levi is also an ancestor to Joseph who became ruler over Egypt during famine time which led to Moses leading his people out from slavery in Egypt into freedom from bondage that God promised them long ago!
Judah, was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was the founder of the Jewish tribe of Judah, being named after his grandfather Judah (the son of Jacob’s brother Esau). His children were also known as “Judahites”. The descendants of Judah are considered to be part of Israelite history as well as “The House of David” or “House of Israel”.
Jacob had twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (the founder), Dan (the judge), Naphtali, Gad (the seer), Asher (from whom sprang kings), Issachar (a strong horseman) Zebulun who always follows his heart’s desires but with discretion; Joseph who became second only to Pharaoh himself in Egypt; Benjamin who always gives freely but doesn’t expect anything back except maybe a little kindness for all he has done for others; Joseph also had two sons Manasseh and Ephraim from whom sprang many mighty nations including those whose names still live on today such as Britain and America!”
Dan is the fifth son of Jacob and Leah. He was born in Canaan, and when he grew up, he moved to northern Israel with his family. After spending some time there, Dan did what so many children do: he found out that his parents’ house was not as great as it seemed to him when he was younger. It’s hard to blame him for wanting to move out.
In the book of Judges, we read that “Danites” (people from Dan) fought against the Israelites despite being part of Israel themselves. We don’t know whether this means they actually abandoned their homes or whether they were trying to gain independence from their neighbors so they could settle elsewhere; either way, it didn’t go well for them because God punished them by giving them into slavery until about 922 BC!
Naphtali was the youngest of the 12 sons of Jacob and Leah. His name means “my wrestling,” a reference to his mother’s struggle to conceive. In addition to being one of Leah’s four sons, Naphtali is also an ancestor of the tribe of Naphtali. Moses mentions him in Deuteronomy 7:23-25 as one who was not allowed into Canaan because he had been too friendly with their enemies during their journey through the wilderness.
According to the Bible, Gad was the seventh son of Jacob and Zilpah. He is thought to be the ancestor of the Gadites, a tribe who lived in the land of Bashan (Judges 1:20). His full name was Gad Elimelech (“Gad his father”).
Gad’s story begins with him being born after Rachel gave birth to Benjamin (Genesis 30:11-12). From that point on, he played an important role within his family dynamic: he was one of Judah’s half brothers; he had a wife named Machlath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nabaioth; and he fathered Asher with her (Genesis 49:19).
You might not have heard of the tribe of Asher, but they were a big deal. Asher was Jacob’s 12th son and he was an important leader in Israel. The Bible says that he had 40 sons, many of whom were influential in their communities.
Asher’s symbol is an olive tree, which is pretty fitting considering olives are one of Israel’s most abundant crops today!
Issachar was the fifth son of Jacob and Leah, and the tenth of Joseph. He was born in Paddan Aram while they were living as exiles there in exile. He had four sons: Tola, Puah, Jobab and Shimron.
Issachar is also a tribe of Israel that may have descended from Issachar or been named after him; it is also mentioned in Joshua 19:22-23 as a son of Jacob (see also Genesis 46:13).
In Chronicles 1:34 he is listed as one of David’s warriors who are descendants from Benjamin (1 Chronicles 12:6-21).
Zebulun was the 12th son of Jacob and Leah, born in the land of Canaan after his mother gave birth to Joseph. His name means “abundance.”
Zebulun is mentioned in Genesis 30:20-22: “Then Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob, who named him Gad; he was the father of Asher. To Zilpah’s daughters were born these six sons: they became their father’s wives, and gave birth to his descendants. These are their names: (1) JAHZEEL, (2) SHUHAMIEL AND (3) NATHANIEL; all three were from Jahzeel; (4) ESAU’S SONS WERE DAN AND (5) EPHRAIM…”
Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son.
He is the first of Rachel’s children and was born to her in Egypt, during their stay there after fleeing from Laban.
Rachel had been barren for many years until she became pregnant with Joseph. According to Genesis 30:22-24, it was because of this that Rachel named him Joseph which means “May God add another son” or “May God give me another son”.
When Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and hated him, they sold him into slavery in Egypt where he became an advisor to Pharoah and saved Egypt from famine through his wisdom (Genesis 37).
Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s sons. He was the only one of Jacob’s sons who hadn’t had children yet and he didn’t have a hand in killing his father.
Benjamin is also one of four biblical names that can be found in the Book of Genesis (the other three being Judah, Levi and Joseph). The name means “son of my right hand,” which makes sense when you consider how Benjamin was Abel’s youngest brother and he was given this name because he was expected to be an heir to his father’s throne.
Jacob’s family was quite large.
Jacob’s family was quite large. The Bible says that he had 12 sons (and possibly a daughter or two) who became the ancestors of the nations of Israel, Judah and Joseph. We also know that some of Jacob’s grandsons and great-grandsons were named, such as Reuben and Simeon. In addition to these direct descendants, there were many other people in the tribe of Israel who descended from Jacob; we know this because the Bible mentions their names here and there:
- Ephraim and Manasseh (sons of Joseph)
- Gad (son of Zilpah)
- Asher (son of Zilpah)
Although his sons were not perfect, Jacob’s family was well respected and very large. They are mentioned frequently throughout the Bible and are well known for their exploits. It is interesting how Jacob loved Rachel so much that he worked for seven years to marry her, but then later he took two wives who were sisters as well!