Tribes of Israel – Birth Order

Birth order is important and is mentioned many times in the Bible. The firstborn got a double portion of the inheritance but that double blessing was transferable. God seems to have fond affections for the “second born” son and several times they are put ahead of the firstborn. Ex.  Seth, Ephraim, Jacob/Israel, and of course Jesus*(see the answer to James) (see Timeline).


  • 1 Reuben*                                                                 
  • 2 Simeon
  • 3 Levi
  • 4 Judah


  • 5 Dan*
  • 6 Naphtali


  • 7 Gad*
  • 8 Asher


  • 9 Issachar
  • 10 Zebulun
  • 11 Dinah – the only daughter, see Genesis 34


  • 12 Joseph*  – (a)Manassah*, (b)Ephraim but Jacob reversed the blessing and put Ephraim first
  • 13 Benjamin

Simeon and Levi lose their birth order rights in Genesis 34:30 and Reuben loses his in Genesis 35:22. Judah is now heir apparent until Genesis 37:3 where it seems that Jacob may be making Joseph (he was the firstborn of the favored wife) the leader of the family. Some experts believe the “coat of many colors” may have been a visible sign that Joseph was going to be given the “double portion blessing” and be made the family leader.  Not only did the brothers not like his dreams but when their father gave Joseph the “coat” that was just too much. So in Genesis 37 when they sell him to the Ishmaelites Judah is the ringleader (preserve his blessing) and Reuben is trying to rescue him (get back in favor with Jacob and hopefully he learned something).

The picture is Leah with Rachel from: 

5 thoughts on “Tribes of Israel – Birth Order

  1. Pingback: Leah the Overlooked | Mark's Bible Study

  2. Why was Gad listed out of order ? Why was he listed among those that were born of Leah? He seemed to be the chosen among the hand maids children

    • Hi, Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant, in Genesis 30:9-13 has Gad and then Asher. Since Leah was the wife I suppose she named the babies. I do have Gad listed under Zilpah and her children are between Bilhah’s and Issachar in verse 17.

  3. The article states, “God seems to have fond affections for the “second born” son and several times they are put ahead of the first-born. Ex. Seth, Ephraim, Jacob/Israel and of course Jesus” This sounds like you are saying Jesus was NOT first born. Is that what you are saying?

    • Thank you for your QUEstion. It produced a fruitful and informative study, which will be a post soon. I believe that we were focused on two different aspects of our Lord Jesus.
      Jesus is the firstborn of Creation (Hebrews 1:6, Colossians 1:15, Romans 8:29). He is also the firstborn of/from the dead (Revelation 1:5, Colossians 1:18). He is also the head of the church of the firstborn (Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 12:23).
      In that post, I was focused on 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 46. Here He is the “Last Adam” and the “SECOND man”. I did a poor job of communicating that thought, which possibly led to your question. Somehow, those two verses have been combined to produce the phrase “the Second Adam”. Yes, the Hebrew of Adam and man is probably the reason.
      Since a logomachia is the last thing I want, I will be a better Berean.
      Respectfully, Mark

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