Sons in the Bible: 12 Sons of Jacob

Jacob fled to his Uncle Laban, where he met his cousins.  He immediately fell in love with Rachel and worked for her 7 years, which felt like no time.  However, he was tricked into marrying Leah.  After their wedding week finished, he also married Rachel.

Rachel was jealous when her sister provided Jacob with children and she could not.  She gave her husband her handmaiden and her sister then followed suit.  So Jacob had his twelve sons {and 1 daughter} with these four women.

The brothers became jealous of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, and sold him into slavery.  Later, the sons were reunited in Egypt and the remaining sons and their families moved there with their father. Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons and Joseph took his father back to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The twelve sons of Jacob became the twelve tribes of Israel, which was the name the Lord gave Jacob after they wrestled together.

So, who were these sons and what do we know about them?

  1. Reuben—son of Leah; means behold a son and he has seen my misery; Reuben slept with his father’s maidservant, Bilhah; he persuaded his brothers not to kill Joseph; he is described as having a sense of responsibility over his brothers; father of four sons; described by Jacob on his deathbed as having dignity and power, but being fickle and hot tempered, unstable as water and condemned to no longer have excellency
  2. Simeon—son of Leah; means obedient, listening, little hyena; avenges his sister Dinah’s rape; held hostage by Joseph while brothers bring Benjamin to Egypt; had six sons; Jacob’s deathbed blessing is his people will become divided and scattered

3. Levi—son of Leah; means joined, attached; avenges his sister Dinah’s rape; great-grandfather of Moses and Aaron; becomes the lineage of the priest; has 3 sons; referred to as being pious;

4. Judah—son of Leah; means praise; Judah suggest selling Joseph instead of killing him; Judah marries a Cannanite and has 3 sons; 2 sons marries Tamar and dies without children;  Tamar goes to Judah and gives birth to twins; their son Perez is the ancestor from whence the line of  David and Jesus descended; Jacob said he would be praised and he is a lion’s whelp; offered himself to Joseph as surety for Benjamin’s safety and pleads for Benjamin’s life; clearly assumes a leadership role among the brothers

5. Dan— son of Bilhah {Rachel’s handmaid}; means God is my judge;  one son; Jacob stated shall be a judge and serpent in the way

6. Naphalti—son of Bilhah {Rachel’s handmaid}; means my struggle, my strife; had 4 sons; at his death instructed his sons to fear the Lord and serve the Lord and to join with the sons of Levi and Judah

7. Gad— son of Zilpah {Leah’s handmaid}; means fortune, luck; 7 sons; Jacob’s deathbed confession—a troop shall press upon him and he shall press upon thy heel

8. Asher—son of Zilpah {Leah’s handmaid}; means happy, blessed; 4 sons and a daughter; strived to reconcile the brothers; regarded as a virtuous man;

9. Issachar—son of Leah; means hire, wage, reward; four sons; Jacob’s deathbed blessing—a strong ass, saw a resting place that’s good and land that is pleasant and became a servant under the taskwork

10. Zebulun—son of Leah; means dwelling place, exalted, honored; three sons; Jacob’s blessing—shall dwell as a haven of the sea and haven for ships

11. Joseph—son of Rachel; means may God add or increase; Joseph was his father’s favorite son; Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors; Joseph had visions and could interpret dreams; his brothers were jealous and sold him into slavery; he spent years in captivity and prison before becoming the 2nd to only Pharaoh; he reunited with his brothers in Egypt; married an Egyptian woman; had 2 sons; moved his father, brothers and their families to Egypt; took his father’s body back for burial; did not seek vengeance against his brothers but believed it was God’s will; lived to 110; made children of Israel swear to take his bones with them when they left

12. Benjamin—son of Rachel, who died giving birth; born after arriving in Canaan;  means son of the right hand; had 10 sons; full brother of Joseph; Jacob described as wolf to devour prey and divide the spoil

Jacob adopted the sons of his son, Joseph:

  1. Manasseh—means to forget; had 2 sons

2. Ephraim—means fruitful; Jacob blessed to be greater than his brother; Book of Numbers list 3 sons and 1 Chronicles 7 claims at least 8 sons

The sons of Jacob would eventually become the 12 tribes of Israel.

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