Tribes of Israel – A timeline

This is a new timeline of Jacob and Joseph. I now understand how hard it is to make an accurate line from a verbal description. To do this I started at the end (Jacob’s life) and moved to Joseph’s birth and the twenty years of service; transition/travel times also add error into my dates. The numbers surprised me, I have always thought that Jacob left around forty years of age because Esau’s age is mentioned when he married (Genesis 26: 34) and the text moves right to Isaac being tricked and Jacob leaving. My first timeline is wrong, especially when it comes to Isaac and Jacob and Isaac’s death. So please accept my “close” and use it that way. I used Excel and took screenshots to get my graphics so you will need to double click on them to view them.




The Tribes of Israel – How Old Were These Guys

If you have watched movies about the Old Testament you may have the idea that the sons of Jacob must have been “old” just because of Jacob’s age. Now Jacob did have some age on him and the boys are always pictured as “older.”

Lets put a time line together.

Jacob works seven years and gets Leah instead of Rachael. Now he had to wait a week before he got her and then he worked off the other seven years. So let’s put Reuben being born about year 8 into the 20 years Jacob stayed with Laban. The first four children came one after another so when they left Laban to go back to Canaan that would make

  • 1 Reuben* 12 years old and maybe 14 or 15 when they got to Shechem
  • 2 Simeon – 11
  • 3 Levi – 10
  • 4 Judah – 9
  • 5 Dan* – 8 or 9
  • 6 Naphtali – one year younger than Dan
  • 7 Gad* – possible 8
  • 8 Asher – one year younger than Gad – 7
  • 9 Issachar – possibly 7
  • 10 Zebulun – 6
  • 11 Dinah – 5
  • 12 Joseph*  – I cannot find a reference for this but I always think he is two when they leave.
  • 13 Benjamin – was not born until they had been Canaan for a while. (Genesis 35)

Let’s give them a two-year trip back to Canaan. We don’t know how long Jacob camped/owned land in Shechem before Dinah got violated but lets add eight years to everyone’s age making Dinah thirteen and Simeon (19 yrs.) and Levi (18 yrs.) when they killed all the males in Shechem. It may have been longer so they would have been older but we don’t know.

The next definite age we have is Joseph at seventeen in Genesis 37.  So adding fifteen years to everyone makes Reuben twenty-seven when Joseph was sold. (He slept with Bilhah before this in Genesis 35.) That would make Judah twenty-five/six years old when he moved out in Genesis 38. From here we will need to use Joseph and seven good and bad years to reference ages.

Joseph was thirty when he became Governor of Egypt; that will make Reuben forty and Judah thirty-eight years old. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in Genesis 45 and says there are five years of famine left so that is another nine years making Joseph 39, Reuben 49 and Judah 47.

Remember, Judah marries raises three sons and is tricked by his daughter-law in this time period. Some of this drama very possibly was taking place right around the trips to Egypt. (Reuben had two sons at this time – Genesis 42:37.)

Jacob died at 147 years old (Genesis 47:9 and 28). Honestly, I thought that Jacob was forty when he left for Paddan-aram but after reading (Genesis 26 -28) it several times all it says was that Esau married at 40 and then Isaac was old. I did a Patriarch timeline and will have to up-date it soon.

Tribes of Israel – Issachar

Issachar is the fifth son of Leah and the ninth child of Jacob.

Deuteronomy 33: 18 About Zebulun he said: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
and you, Issachar, in your tents.
Genesis 49:14 “Issachar is a rawboned (strong) donkey lying down among the sheep pens. 15 When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor. (NIV)

Like most of the other sons Issachar does not have a lot documented about his life. We know that he was involved in looting Shechem, selling Joseph and the trips to Egypt but that is about it for the story of his life. His family is also pretty quiet but he does have a few standouts in his linage and they are mentioned when all the tribes come together or are being assigned things to do by David or Solomon. They are included in some of the revivals in the latter part of Chronicles.

Tola, a judge mentioned in Judges 10:1+2 is from Issachar and Deborah includes them in her song in Judges 5:15.

Baasha, a king of the Northern Tribes (Israel) is found in 1 Kings 15:27 – 16:7; the NIV mentions that the name may mean “bad” and he lived down to the meaning as he killed the previous king and his entire family. (That seemed to be standard practice for the day.)

Issachar with Zebulun and Judah formed the leading edge of the Camp during the Exodus; in fact those three appear together many times. I feel it is because they are the three “blessed” sons of Leah. Reuben, Simeon and Levi all incurred Jacob’s wrath during his lifetime. I also feel that they were the “true” children of a wife instead of a concubine. (Judah was not a poster child for good as he starts the selling of Joseph and had the trouble with his daughter-in-law.)

He and Zebulun are often mentioned together and were allotted land next to each other after the conquest. But like most of the Northern Tribes they go into Exile under the Assyrians and you loose track of them after that.

Another Issachar connection has to do with Gideon.  He was in Ophrah that was actually in the land of Issachar.  Several sources I have read refer to Manasseh mingling with both Issachar and Zebulun; a map in my Holman Bible puts much of his story in those lands.

Map from and

Ishmael and Esau: Family and Foe – Part 1

These are the first-born children of both Abraham and Isaac. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael but he was not considered the “promised child” and Esau (see Three Books and The Day) sold his birthright to Jacob. So neither of these men received the rights of the first-born; this is in agreement with the shadowing of Adam and Jesus. ( FYI Muslims say they are the spiritual children of Abraham through Ishmael.) You can read that both of these men maintained a relationship with their fathers because both of them showed up to help bury their fathers; Genesis 25:9 for Abraham and Genesis 35:29 for Isaac. Josephus, a Jewish historian, actually uses the death of Isaac as a dividing point for his history book The Antiquities of the Jews.

Ishmael is an interesting “type and shadow” he was born from an Egyptian and got an Egyptian wife; Egypt for Christians is associated with our bondages and addictions before we are saved.  So even though Egypt still holds that shadow Ishmael takes on an added shadowing because he is something personal/family in our lives.  One of the last mentions of him is in Genesis 25:18 which refers to the fact that his descendants lived in hostility (or to the east of) all of their brothers. According to Josephus Ishmael became the father of the Arabians. (see Part 2)

Now the Arabians do show up later in Scripture in some interesting places. In  2 Chronicles 17 Jehoshaphat has tribute brought to him by Arabs, Jehoram is attacked by them in chapter 21, and in chapter 26 Uzziah is beating them again with God’s help.  Nehemiah has trouble with them because of Geshem and they are mentioned in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel where they are condemned to the sword or are under God’s wrath.  But a scripture that ties all of this together is in Galatians 4:21 – 31. Hagar represents Mount Sinai (the Law) that is in Arabia and Paul links that to physical Jerusalem while the heavenly Jerusalem is linked to Sarah.

References:1.12.2 The Antiquities of the Jews, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance

Patriarch Timeline

I put this together to reference with several future studies, I hope it will be useful.

The biggest mistake that may exist is when Esau and Jacob were born; I gave about a five year gap, it may have been longer (probably was) . These are approximate lines; I used Excel and let every box be 5 years.  If it was longer than five years that would put Isaac dying before Jacob went to Egypt. That is a pretty good guess since we do not hear about Jacob traveling back once he is in Egypt.

The other information piece that I did not put in is when Abraham married Keturah; that is partly because we don’t know exactly.  You may get the idea that it was after Sarah died but it easily could have been before and she was around to help take care of the household as Sarah health and abilities were failing.  If they were married before Sarah’s death some of her children would have shared the camp with Esau and Jacob.

Please see my new attempt at Isaac and Jacob’s life. It may still not be 100% accurate but it is better.