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Reference: Tribes Of Israel


The number of the tribes of Israel varied at different periods. The number 12 is an artificial one, as is seen from its application to the descendants of Ishmael (Ge 17:20; 25:13-15), of Nahor (Ge 22:20-24), and of Esau (Ge 36:15-19,40-43). Simeon and Levi were 'divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel' (Ge 49:7) when the tribe of Benjamin arose, so that at that time there would be not 12 but only 11 tribes. Reuben, likewise, in the period of the kings, was an insignificant remnant, and, though mentioned in 1Ch 5:26 as still existing in 734, had apparently become disintegrated long before. As Stade (VI Geschichte des Volkes Israel i. 146) correctly remarks, several of the largest tribes

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