Genesis 29:32–35:18, The birth of the Jacob’s twelve sons and the meaning of their names. The Scriptures record that the gospel message was preached not only to the first century believers, but to ancient Israel (Heb 4:2), and to the Patriarchs (Gal 3:8) as well. Here is another example of this in the meanings of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob. His twelve sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin (who was not born until Gen 35:18). The meanings of their names and the statements the Bible attaches to those meanings reveal YHVH’s glorious plan of salvation for mankind. The Scriptures call this message the good news or gospel.
Reuben, Jacob’s first son, means “see or behold a son” (Heb. combination of two words: ra’ah meaning “to see” and ben meaning “son”). At the birth of her first son, Leah proclaimed “surely YHVH has looked upon my affliction” (Gen 29:32). The gospel message here is that YHVH Elohim saw the affliction of sinful man and gave us Yeshua, his Son.
Simeon means “hearing” (Heb. from shama meaning “to hear”). Leah named her second son thusly because “YHVH has heard that I was unloved” and she was hoping to receive her husband’s affection (Gen 29:33). The gospel message in this is that as a sinner, one comes to Yeshua in a lost and unloved state and separated from Elohim, and that when one hears about the Son (Yeshua the Messiah) in the gospel message, it’s at this point they receive the Father’s love.
Levi means “joined” (Heb. from lavah meaning “to join”). Leah named her next son this in the hopes that “now this time will my husband be joined to me” (Gen 29:34). With regard to the gospel, this can infer the union between a redeemed believer and the Father and Son that occurs at the time of one’s salvation. The good news message is the reconciliation and union of man and Elohim through the atoning death of Yeshua and by the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life who helps us to conform our lives to the Word of Elohim.
Judah means “praise” or “now I will praise YHVH” (Gen 29:35; Heb. from yadah meaning “to give thanks, laud, praise). This is the response of the redeemed believer upon being joined to Yeshua as one is spiritually regenerated.
Dan means “judgment.” Rachel named Bilhah’s son Dan and exclaimed “Elohim has judged my case” (Gen 30:6; Heb. from diyn meaning “to judge, contend, plead”). The gospel message is that when a new believer receives salvation from sin’s death penalty through Yeshua’s atoning blood, the Just Judges of the Universe’s sentence against sin has been lifted from them.
Naphtali means “wrestling,” upon his birth, Rachel proclaimed, “With great wrestlings have I wrestled” (Gen 30:8; Heb. from pathal meaning “to be twisted, wrestle”). This prophetically speaks of the believer’s life as he struggles against the world, flesh and the devil endeavoring to walk in a righteous and sin-free relationship with Elohim.
Gad means “troop or company” (Heb. from guwd meaning “to invade, attack”). At his birth, Leah exclaimed, “A troop comes” (Gen 30:11). This prophetically foretells the fellowship of believers as sons and daughters in the spiritual family of Elohim.
Asher means “happy” (Heb. from ashar meaning “to pronounce, call blessed”), for when he was born, Leah declared “I am happy and I will be called blessed.” (Gen 30:13). True inner happiness come to the redeemed believer who is now walking in right relationship with Elohim and in fellowship with other believers while together they pursue the hope of eternal life and inclusion in the kingdom of Elohim.
Issachar means “hire” (Heb. nasa or nasach meaning “to bear, carry, to be lifted up” and sakar meaning “hire, wages, pay, reward”). At his birth, Leah declared, “Elohim has given me my wages” (Gen 30:18). Once one is a part of the spiritual body of believers, one is equipped for works of service in advancing the kingdom of Elohim as a bondservant with the ultimate reward for a lifetime of service being eternal life and inclusion in the family of Elohim.
Zebulun means “dwelling, exalt and honor” (Heb. from zabal meaning “to exalt, honor, dwell exaltedly”). Upon the birth of her sixth son, Leah triumphantly proclaimed, “Elohim has endowed me with a good gift, and now my husband will dwell with me” (Gen 30:20). This speaks prophetically of the gift of eternal life YHVH has for those who faithfully serve him and the honor and exalted status they will have as the bride of King Yeshua the Messiah and as kings and priest in his eternal kingdom.
Joseph means “adding” (Heb. from yacaph meaning “to add, increase, do again’). When he was born, Rachel declared, “Elohim has taken away my reproach and YHVH shall add to me another son” (Gen 30:24). This can again be a prophetic reference to the expansion of Elohim’s spiritual family comprised of individuals who have been redeemed from the consequences and penalty of sin and who have become YHVH’s spiritual sons and daughters. This spiritual family will have its highest and fullest manifestation in the New Jerusalem heaven on earth.
Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand” (Heb. from ben meaning “son” and yamiyn meaning “right hand”) was born in Bethlehem (or Ephrath, Gen 35:18), which was the birthplace of Yeshua the Messiah. This is a clear prophetic reference to Yeshua who sits at the right hand of YHVH, and to believers who are seated with Yeshua in heavenly places by faith (Eph 2:6). To be united with Yeshua in an eternal spiritual relationship ruling and reigning with him over his kingdom is the ultimate reward of the saints. It’s interesting to note that as she was dying, Rachel named her son Benoni meaning “son of my sorrow” and Jacob changed the name to Benjamin. It’s likely that Rachel died prematurely because of the curse Jacob unwittingly placed on her for hiding her father’s idols (Gen 31:32). Within the context of the meaning of the twelve patriarchs’ names pointing prophetically to the gospel message, it’s possible that there is a not so oblique allusion in the name Benoni to the sorrowful fate of idolators who refuse to accept Yeshua, the son of Elohim’s right hand, as their Redeemer and Lord. They will perish under Elohim’s hand of judgment, like Rachel (?), in the lake of fire, for we read that idolators will have no part in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:15).
When the meanings Scriptures attaches to the names of the twelve tribes are combined, the following (gospel) message is proclaimed:
Behold or see the son. Surely YHVH has looked upon my affliction. YHVH has heard that I was unloved. My husband will be joined to me. I will praise YHVH. Elohim has judged my case. With great wrestlings have I wrestled. A troop comes. I am happy and I will be called blessed. Elohim has given me my wages. Elohim has endowed me with a good gift, now my husband will dwell with me. Elohim has taken away my reproach and he shall add to me another son who will be son of his right hand.
The gospel message in the names of the twelve tribes starts with Yeshua the Son of Elohim and ends with him, for he is the Aleph and the Tav (or the Alpha and Omega), the Beginning and the End, the Author and Finisher of our faith! Let’s give him the glory! Please pause and reflect on the higher spiritual message in these names. Selah.
Is it possible that the mind of man could have cleverly devised the meanings of these names and in the proper order, so they prophetically proclaim the gospel message some 1800 years before the birth of Yeshua? The laws of statistical probability determine the impossibility of this feat. If this doesn’t loudly attest to the hand of Elohim at work in the writing of the Scriptures, then what does? If this doesn’t strengthen our faith, then what will?
In your own spiritual walk, where are you in this twelve-step prophetic scenario? Have you passed through the reality of each of the twelve steps represented by the names of the twelve tribes of Israel? Perhaps this was the world’s original “twelve-step program”!