From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [1]

A. Nouns.

Maṭṭeh ( מַטָּה , Strong'S #4294), “staff; rod; shaft; branch; tribe.” This noun is a distinctively Hebrew word. It occurs 251 times; the first usage is in Gen. 38:18: “And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.” The word appears most frequently in Numbers and Joshua, generally with the meaning “tribe” in these books.

The basic meaning of maṭṭeh is “staff.” The use of the “staff” was in shepherding. Judah was a shepherd and gave his “staff” to his daughter-in-law, Tamar, as a pledge of sending her a kid of the flock (Gen. 38:17-18). Moses was a shepherd when he saw the vision of the burning bush and when the Lord turned his “staff” into a snake as a sign of His presence and power with Moses’ mission (Exod. 4:2ff.). His “staff” figured prominently throughout the wilderness journeys and was known as “the staff of God” because of the miraculous power connected with it: “And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand” (Exod. 17:9). The “staff” was also a token of authority. The Egyptian magicians had “staffs” as symbols of their authority over the magical realm by which they duplicated several miracles (Exod. 7:12). Aaron had a “rod,” which alone sprouted and put forth buds, whereas eleven rods “from all their leaders according to their father’s household” (Num. 17:2, NASB) did not put forth buds.

The “staff” further signifies authority or power over another nation: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian” (Isa. 9:4). God gave to Assyria His “staff”; they received His authority, divine permission, to wield the sword, to plunder, and to destroy: “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isa. 10:5-6). The psalmist, in his expectation that the messianic rule included God’s authority and judgment over the Gentiles, views the messianic rule as a strong “staff”: “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Ps. 110:2). Similarly, the prophet Ezekiel said, “Fire is gone out of a rod —of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a scepter to rule” (Ezek. 19:14). The figurative usage of maṭṭeh occurs in the idiom maṭṭeh-lehem , “staff of bread.” This poetic idiom refers to the food supply, and it is found mainly in Ezekiel: “Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat [rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair]” (Ezek. 4:16; cf. 14:13).

A derived sense of maṭṭeh is “tribe,” which is used as many as 183 times. The “tribes” of Israel are each designated as maṭṭeh: “And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them” (Josh. 14:1). It is possible that the maṭṭeh (“staff”), as a symbol of authority, first applied to the tribal leader and thereafter by extension to the whole “tribe.”

The several meanings of maṭṭeh are reflected in the Septuagint: phule (“tribe; nation; people”) and rabdos (“rod; staff; scepter”).

Shêbeṭ ( שֵׁבֶט , Strong'S #7626), “tribe; rod.” In modern Hebrew this word mainly denotes “tribe” as a technical term. In Akkadian the related verb shabatu signifies “to smite,” and the noun shabbitu means “rod” or “scepter.” A synonym of the Hebrew shêbeṭ is maṭṭeh , also “rod” or “tribe,” and what is applicable to maṭṭeh is also relevant to shêbeṭ.

The “rod” as a tool is used by the shepherd (Lev. 27:32) and the teacher (2 Sam. 7:14). It is a symbol of authority in the hands of a ruler, whether it is the scepter (Amos 1:5, 8) or an instrument of warfare and oppression: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:9; cf. Zech. 10:11). The symbolic element comes to expression in a description of the messianic rule: “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth …” (Isa. 11:4).

The word shêbeṭ is most frequently used (143 times) to denote a “tribe,” a division in a nation. It is the preferred term for the twelve “tribes” of Israel (Gen. 49:16; Exod. 28:21). Jeremiah referred to all of Israel as the “tribe”: “The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the Lord of hosts is his name” (51:19).

The Septuagint translations are: phule (“tribe; nation; people”); rabdos (“rod; staff”); and skeptron (“scepter; tribe”).

B. Verb.

Nâṭâh ( נָטָה , Strong'S #5186), “to stretch out, spread out, extend.” This root occurs in biblical, mishnaic, and modern Hebrew and in Arabic with the same meaning. One occurrence of nâṭâh is in Exod. 9:22: “Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven.…”

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

Jacob having twelve sons, who were the heads of so many great families, which altogether formed a great nation; every one of these families was called a tribe. But Jacob on his death bed adopted Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, and would have them also to constitute two tribes of Israel,  Genesis 48:5 . Instead of twelve tribes, there were now thirteen, that of Joseph being divided into two. However, in the distribution of lands to each which Joshua made by the order of God, they counted but twelve tribes, and made but twelve lots. For the tribe of Levi, which was appointed to the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, had no share in the distribution of the land, but only some cities in which to dwell, and the first fruits, tithes, and oblations of the people, which was all their subsistence. The twelve tribes continued united under one head, making but one state, one people, and one monarchy, till after the death of Solomon. Then ten of the tribes of Israel revolted from the house of David, and received for their king Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; and only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin continued under the government of Rehoboam.

This separation may be looked upon as the chief cause of those great misfortunes that afterward happened to those two kingdoms, and to the whole Hebrew nation. For first, it was the cause of the alteration and change of the old religion, and of the ancient worship of their forefathers. Jeroboam the son of Nebat substituted the worship of golden calves for the worship of the true God; which was the occasion of the ten tribes forsaking the temple of the Lord. Secondly, this schism caused an irreconcilable hatred between the ten tribes, and those of Judah and Benjamin, and created numerous wars and disputes between them. The Lord, being provoked, delivered them up to their enemies. Tiglath-Pileser first took away captive the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Naphtali, and the half tribe of Manasseh, which were beyond Jordan, and carried them beyond the Euphrates,  2 Kings 15:29;  1 Chronicles 5:26; A.M. 3264. Some years after, Shalmaneser king of Assyria took the city of Samaria, destroyed it, took away the rest of the inhabitants of Israel, carried them beyond the Euphrates, and sent other inhabitants into the country to cultivate and possess  2 Kings 17:6;  2 Kings 18:10-11 . Thus ended the kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel, A.M. 3283. As to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who remained under the government of the kings of the family of David, they continued a much longer time in their own country. But at last, after they had filled up the measure of their iniquity, God delivered them all into the hands of their enemies. Nebuchadnezzar took the city of Jerusalem, entirely ruined it, and took away all the inhabitants of Judah and Benjamin to Babylon, and the other provinces of his empire, A.M. 3416. The return from this captivity is stated in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. See Jews .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Φυλή (Strong'S #5443 — Noun Feminine — phule — foo-lay' )

"a company of people united by kinship or habitation, a clan, tribe," is used (a) of the peoples of the earth,  Matthew 24:30; in the following the RV has "tribe(-s)" for AV, "kindred(-s),"  Revelation 1:7;  5:9;  7:9;  11:9;  13:7;  14:6 (b) of the "tribes" of Israel,   Matthew 19:28;  Luke 2:36;  22:30;  Acts 13:21;  Romans 11:1;  Philippians 3:5;  Hebrews 7:13,14;  James 1:1;  Revelation 5:5;  7:4-8;  21:12 .

2: Δωδεκάφυλον (Strong'S #1429 — Noun Neuter — dodekaphulos — do-dek-af'-oo-lon )

an adjective signifying "of twelve tribes" (dodeka, "twelve," and No. 1), used as a noun in the neuter, occurs in  Acts 26:7 .

King James Dictionary [4]

Tribe n. L. tribus.

1. A family, race or series of generations, descending from the same progenitor and kept distinct, as in the case of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. 2. A division, class or distinct portion of people, from whatever cause that distinction may have originated. The city of Athens was divided into ten tribes. Rome was originally divided into three tribes afterward the people were distributed into thirty tribes, and afterwards into thirty five. 3. A number of things having certain characters or resemblances, in common as a tribe of plants a tribe of animals.

Linneus distributed the vegetable kingdom into three tribes, viz. monocotyledonous, dicotyledonous, and acotyledonous plants, and these he subdivided into gentes or nations.

By recent naturalists, tribe has been used for a division of animals or vegetables, intermediate between order and genus. Cuvier divides his orders into families, and his families into tribes, including under the latter one or more genera. Leach, in his arrangement of insects, makes his tribes, on the contrary, the primary subdivisions of his orders, and his families subordinate to them, and immediately including the genera.

Tribes of plants, in gardening, are such as are related to teach other by some natural affinity or resemblance as by their duration, the annual, biennial, and perennial tribes by their roots, as the bulbous, tuberous, and fibrous-rooted tribes by the loss or retention of their leaves, as the deciduous and ever-green tribes by their fruits and seeds, as the leguminous, bacciferous, coniferous, nuciferous and pomiferous tribes, &c.

4. A division a number considered collectively. 5. A nation of savages a body of rude people united under one leader or government as the tribes of the six nations the Seneca tribe in America. 6. A number of persons of any character or profession in contempt as the scribbling tribe.

TRIBE, To distribute into tribes or classes. Not much used.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [5]

TRIBE ( φυλή) is used mostly in the special OT sense of an Israelitish tribe, composed of the descendants of one of the sons of Jacob. The prophetess Anna belonged to the tribe of Asher ( Luke 2:36). The Messianic claims of Jesus were strengthened by the fact that He sprang from the royal tribe of Judah ( Hebrews 7:14). Galilee comprised the territories allotted in OT times to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali ( Matthew 4:13;  Matthew 4:15). The promise to the Twelve Apostles that they should judge the twelve tribes of Israel ( Matthew 19:28 ||  Luke 22:30) may be regarded as an instance of the way in which Jesus sometimes expressed His teaching in the language of popular apocalyptic conceptions of the Kingdom of God (cf.  Revelation 7:4 ff.). Less probable is the explanation of Weiss, that ‘their judging the twelve tribes is only the reverse side of their being sent to the twelve tribes, which are exposed to judgment just because the offer of salvation was made to them through the Apostles’ ( NT Theol. , English translation i. 154). In  Matthew 24:30 (quoted from  Zechariah 12:12) ‘tribe’ has the wider sense of a branch of the human race.

James Patrick.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

Jacob having twelve sons, who were heads of so many families, which together formed a great nation, each of these families was called a tribe. But this patriarch on his death-bed adopted Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, and would have them also to constitute two tribes in Israel,  Genesis 48:5 . Instead of twelve tribes, there were now thirteen, that of Joseph being two. However, in the distribution of lands by Joshua under the order of God, they reckoned but twelve tribes and made but twelve lots; of the tribe of Levi, being appointed to the sacred service, had no share in the distribution of the land, but received certain cities to dwell in, with the first-fruits, tithes, and oblations of the people. Each tribe had its own leaders and tribunals; and the whole twelve, in their early history, constituted a republic somewhat resembling the United States. In the division made by Joshua of the land of Canaan, Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh had their lot beyond Jordan, east; all the other tribes, and the remaining half of Manasseh had their distribution on this side the river, west.

The twelve tribes continued united as one state, one people, and one monarchy, till after the death of Solomon, when ten of the tribes revolted from the house of David, and formed the kingdom of Israel. See Hebrews .

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): ( n.) A division, class, or distinct portion of a people, from whatever cause that distinction may have originated; as, the city of Athens was divided into ten tribes.

(2): ( n.) A nation of savages or uncivilized people; a body of rude people united under one leader or government; as, the tribes of the Six Nations; the Seneca tribe.

(3): ( v. t.) To distribute into tribes or classes.

(4): ( n.) A family of animals descended from some particular female progenitor, through the female line; as, the Duchess tribe of shorthorns.

(5): ( n.) A number of species or genera having certain structural characteristics in common; as, a tribe of plants; a tribe of animals.

(6): ( n.) A family, race, or series of generations, descending from the same progenitor, and kept distinct, as in the case of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from the twelve sons of Jacob.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Matthew 24:30  Revelation 7

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

( מִטָּה and שֵׁבֶט ; both originally meaning a Rod or branch. Φυλή ) is the name of the great groups of families into which the Israelitish nation, like other Oriental races, was divided. The modern Arabs the Bedawin, and the Berbers, and also the Moors on the northern shores of Africa, are still divided into tribes. The clans in Scotland are also analogous to the tribes of the ancient Israelites. The division of a nation into tribes differs from a division into castes, since one is a division merely according to descent, and the other super adds a necessity of similar occupations being prevalent among persons connected by consanguinity. There occurs, however, among the Israelites a caste also, namely, that of the Levites. In Genesis 49 the tribes are enumerated according to their progenitors; viz.

1 Reuben, the first-born;

2, Simeon, and

3, Levi, instruments of cruelty;

4, Judah, whom his brethren shall praise;

5, Zebulon, dwelling at the haven of the sea;

6, Issachar, the strong;

7, Dan, the judge;

8, Gad, whom a troop shall overcome, but who shall vanquish at last;

9, Asher, whose bread shall be fat;

10, Naphtali, giving goodly words;

11, Joseph, the fruitful bough;

12, Benjamin, the wolf: all these were originally the twelve tribes of Israel (see Allin, Prophecies of the Twelve Tribes Lond. 1855]).

In this enumeration it is remarkable that the subsequent division of the tribe of Joseph into the two branches of Ephraim and Manasseh is not yet alluded to. After this later division of the very numerous tribe of Joseph into the two branches of Ephraim and Manasseh had taken place, there were, strictly speaking, thirteen tribes. It was, however, usual to view them as comprehended under the number twelve, which was the more natural, since one of them, namely, the caste of the Levites, did not live within such exclusive geographical limits as were assigned to the others after they exchanged their nomadic migrations for settled habitations, but dwelt in towns scattered through all the other twelve tribes. It is also remarkable that the Ishmaelites, as well as the Israelites, were divided into twelve tribes; and that the Persians also, according to Xenophon (Cyclopaedia, 1, 2, 4 sq.), were similarly divided. Among other nations also occur ethnological and' geographical divisions, according to the number twelve.

From this we infer that the number twelve was held in so much favor that, when possible, doubtful cases were adapted to it. An analogous case we find even at a later period, when the spiritual progenitors of the Christian Δωδεκάφυλον , Or the apostles, who were, after the death of Judas, the election of Matthias, and the vocation of Paul, really thirteen in number, were, nevertheless, habitually viewed as twelve; so that wherever, during the Middle Ages, any division was made with reference to the apostles, the number twelve, and not thirteen, was adopted, whether applied to the halls of theological libraries, or to the great barrels of costly wines in the cellar of the civic authorities at Bremen. Concerning the arrangement of these tribes on their march through the wilderness, in their encampments around the ark, and in their occupation of the land of Canaan, see the cognate articles, such as (See Exode); (See Encampment); (See Genealogies); (See Levites), (See Wandering); and the names of the several tribes. We confine ourselves here to two points.

I. The "Lost Tribes." This has been an inexhaustible source of theologico-historical charlatanism, on which there have been written so many volumes that it would be difficult to condense the contradictory opinions advanced in them within the limits of a moderate article. Suffice it to say that there is scarcely any human race so abject, forlorn, and dwindling, located anywhere between the Chinese and the American Indians, who have not been stated to be the ten tribes which disappeared from history during and after the Babylonian captivity. If the books, written on the ten tribes contained much truth, it would be difficult to say where they are not.

The truth, however, of the matter seems rather to be as follows. After the division of the Israelites under Jeroboam and Rehoboam into the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the believers in whom the feelings of ancient theocratic legitimacy and nationality predominated, and especially the priests and Levites, who were, connected by many ties with the sanctuary at Jerusalem, had a tendency to migrate towards the visible center of their devotions; while those, members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who had an individual hankering after the foreign fashions adopted in Samaria, and the whole kingdom of Israel, had a tendency externally to unite themselves to a state of things corresponding with their individuality. After the political fall of both kingdoms, when all the principal families connected with the possession of the soil had been compelled to emigrate, most Israelites who had previously little feeling for theocratic nationality gradually amalgamated by marriages and other connections with the nations by which they were surrounded; while the former inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah felt their nationality revived by the very deprivation of public worship which they suffered in foreign lands. Many of the pious members of those tribes which had formerly constituted the kingdom of Israel undoubtedly joined the returning colonies which proceeded, by permission of the Persian monarchs, to the land of their fathers. However, these former members of the other tribes formed so decidedly a minority among the members of the tribe of Judah that henceforth all believers and worshippers of Jehovah were called יהודים , Ι᾿Ουδαίοι , Judaei, Jews. Thus it came to pass that the best, although smaller, portion of the ten tribes amalgamated with the Jews, some of whom preserved their genealogies till after the destruction of Jerusalem; while the larger proportion of the ten tribes amalgamated with the Gentiles of Central Asia, to whom they probably imparted some of their notions and customs, which again were, in a state more or less pure, propagated to distant regions by the great national migrations proceeding from Central Asia. We are glad to find that this, our historical conviction, has also been adopted by the most learned among the Jews themselves (see Jost, Allgemeine Geschichte Des Israelitischen Volkes [Berlin, 1832], 1, 407 sq., 416 sq.). SEE Captivity

II. Boundary-Lines Of The Tribes Identified. This topic has usually been abandoned by commentators as hopeless. Keil ( Comment. On Joshua ) is really the only one who has seriously grappled with its difficulties, some of which even he is compelled to pronounce insoluble. See each tribe in its alphabetical place.

1. Reuben. On the south, being the southern boundary of the trans- Jordanic tribes, beginning at the mouth of the river Arnon (Wady el- Mojeb) on the Dead Sea; thence along the Arnon to Aroer (Ariir) ( Joshua 13:16); thence along the south-eastern boundary of the trans- Jordanic tribes (which extended as far as the "plain" or tableland stretching eastward from Jordan [ Joshua 12:1], being that containing Medeba and Dibon [ Joshua 13:9]) (north-easterly along the Wady Enkheileh to Leflm); thence along the eastern boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes (east of the ruius of El- Herri); then with an inclination west of north so as to exclude Jazer ( Joshua 13:25) (Seir), also Rabbath-ammon ( 2 Samuel 11:1) (to a point below Jebeiha which was excluded, probably being the Jogbehah of the Gadites,  Numbers 32:35); thence entirely south of Gilead ( Joshua 13:25) (directly west, down the wadies Naur and Hesban), excluding Beth-haran (Beit-hatran) ( Joshua 13:27) and Atroth-shophau (near Merjakkeh) ( Numbers 32:35), but including Heshlon (Hesbln), Elealeh (El-Ai), Bamoth (comp. 21:19, 20) (probablly Jebel Humeh), and Nebo (now discovered in Jebel Neba) (32;37;  Joshua 13:17); thence southerly along the Jordan to the place of beginning ( Joshua 13:23).

2. Gad. On the south, following the northern line of Reuben from the Jordan to the eastern boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes (at Jebeiha); thence north by east along the eastern boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes (around the northern brow of Jebel Zerka) (to a point opposite Jerash [Gerasa] between Jebel Zerka and Jebel Kafkafka); thence in a north- westerly, direction across the region of Gilead ( Joshua 13:25;  Joshua 13:31), passing near Mahaijaimn ( Joshua 13:26;  Joshua 13:30) (Mabneh), to the southern extremity of the sea of Cinllereth (sea of Galilee) ( Joshua 13:27), with the Jordan for the western boundary.

3. Manasseh East. On the south, following the northern line of Gad to its intersection with the eastern boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes (at the opening of the valley between Jebel Zerka and Jebel Katafkafka, with the plain lying east of the latter); thence north-easterly along the boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes (in a direct line across the last-named plain, over the northern end of Jebel es-Zumle, and partly across the plain of the Hanran), and again along the same boundary with a northerly and north- westerly curve through the plain of Bashan ( Joshua 13:30) (i.e. the Hauran), so as to include Edrei (which may be Draa or Dera) ( Joshua 13:31), and so on north-westerly to the vicinity of Mount Hermon ( Joshua 13:11) (i.e. Jebel eshSheikh, where the northern line probably followed the present boundaries of the Arab clans along the top of the Hermon range to its junction with Wady el-Teim at Hasbeiyah); where it joined the northern boundary of the cis-Jordanic tribes at the "entrance into Hamath" ( Numbers 34:8); thence southerly along the sources of the Jordan (down Nahr el-Banmias and its brook), through the lake of Merom, the upper Jordan, and the sea of Galilee, to the place of beginning ( Numbers 34:10-12).

4. Judah. On the south, the southerly boundary of Canan, beginning on the border of Edom, at the southern bay of the Dead Sea, southward (along the Ghor) past the ascent of Acrabbim, near the desert of Zin (the Wady el- Jeib or the Arabah), to the vicinity of Kradesh-barnea (Ain-weibeh or Ain- hasb) ( Joshua 15:1-3;  Numbers 34:2-4); thence westward to Hezron, along the southern boundary of Canaan (perhaps through Wady Fikreh) (where we may assign a location) to Adar of Hazar-addar: thence westerly around (perhaps by wadies Maderah and Marreh) to:Karkaa (perhaps in this latter), then still westerly to Azmon (possibly in the vicinity south of the ancient Elisa); thence north-westerly (perhaps by Wady en- Abiya) to "the river of Egypt" (or El-Arish), and so on to the Mediterranean, which formed the western boundary of Palestine ( Joshua 15:3-4;  Joshua 15:12;  Numbers 34:4;  Numbers 34:6). See Quar ; Statement Of "Pal. Explor. Fund," p. 68 sq.; April, 1874, p. 68, 82; July, 1874, p. 190.

On the north, beginning at the northern bay of the Dead Sea (which formed the eastern boundary), where the Jordan empties into it (see this whole line in  Joshua 15:5-12, Ad inversely in 18:14-20): obliquely across the plain of the Jordan to Beth-hoglah (Ainl-hajla), thence to Beth-arabah (at first included, but afterwards excluded) (hence situated probably at the present Kusr Hajla); thence to the stone of Bohan (apparently very near the last place, and on the eminences in tile side of Wady Dabus); thence (westerly) in the direction of Delbit (which must therefore be placed on the west side of Wady Dabus [near its head], which last the boundary crossed, as expressed by coming) from the valley of Achor, thence northward towards Gilgalor Geliloth (which is explained as being in front of the ascent to Adummim (apparently lying on the hills skirting the Jordan just west of Gilgal, to which the access would be by the valley on the south side of Jebel el-Fasca; Adummim [probably at ed-Dem near es-Snmreh] being further described as lying on the south side of the "river," probably Wady Kelt); thence to the waters of En-shemesh (probably the "fountain of the apostles," on the road between Bethany and Jericho); thence (across the Mount of Olives by way of Bethany) to En-rogel (the well of Job near Jerusalem); thence around the valley of Hinnom (but at a later date across Mount Moriah, which David purchased, and north of Jebus, which he conquered, and thus acquired both for Judah), through the valley of Gihon to the hill at its northwestern end, bounding the plain or valley of Rephaim west of the city; thence along the ridge of this elevated plain or "hill" to the fountain of Nephtoah (probably Ain Yalo in Wady el-Werd, which last it probably followed after crossing the "giants' plain;" for it must have bent considerably to the south, since it passed near Rachel's sepulcher, now Kubbet Rahil, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem [ 2 Samuel 10:2]); thence in the direction of Mount Ephron (lying considerably northward of this vicinity, although among its "cities" may properly have been reckoned Kirjath-jearim; this line being probably carried through Wady Bittir, then by Waldy Sataf, due north) to Kirjath-jearim (otherwise Baalah or Kirjathbaal) (now Kuiryet el-Enab); thence west (across the intervening valley occupied by the Beni-melik in the direction of Yalo) to the ridge of Seir (perhaps indicated by the modern Saris); thence (south-westerly along this mountain) to a more southern spur called Mount Jearim (just across Wady Ghurab), where is located (Kesla, the representative of) Chesalo (or Chesulloth); thence (still keeping south-westerly along the same range of hills, between Zanoah [Zanfia], anld Zorah [Sufra], the last of which was afterwards assigned to Dan, with several other cities on this part of the boundary [ Joshua 19:41 sq.]) to Enshemesh (or Ir-shemesh) (now Ain- shems); thence (a little south of Waidy Surar) near Timnath (Tibneh. and Ekron (Akir) (the last three towns being finally reckoned as belonging to Dam), and so on to the Mediterranean, passing successively Shicron (perhaps Beit-sit), next Mount Baalah (possibly Tell Hermes), and finally Jabneel (elsewhere Jabneh [now Yebna]) (but eventually deserting the Nahr Rubin a little beyond its junction with Wady Marubah, and runuing thence south-west so as to include Gederah [Gheterah], but exclude Jal)neh and Bene-berak [Burka], reaching the sea by Wady Stimt).

Of Judah only are there any distinct and regular subdivisions given (for Keil's arrangement of the towns of Simeon in four groups according to  Joshua 15:21-32 [ Comment. ad loc.] is not justified by the parallel passage [ Joshua 19:2-8], nor by the analogy of enumeration in the case of the other subdivisions of Judah [15:33-62] and Benjamin [18:21-28], nor with the Masoretic punctuation ["and" being omitted only between different designations of the Same locality], nor, finally, with the actual juxtaposition of the sites). The southernmost section (stretching apparently entirely across from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean) constituted the territory of Simeon, including (as appears from a comparison of  Joshua 15:21-32 with 19:1-8) twenty-nine (strictly twenty-six) cities (namely, Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, Kinah, Dinmonmah, Adadah, Kedesh [Kadesh- barnea], Hazor, the twofold town Ithnan-Ziph [Zephath] with its neighboring ruins, Hormah [?Hazar-addar], Telem, Shenma or Sheba [Hazar-shual], Moladah, Heshmon o[Azmon], Beth-palet, Beer-sheba, the twin-towns Bealoth or Balah [Ramath-nekeb] and Bizjothjah-baalah or Baalath-beer [Lehi], Iim, Azem, Eltolad, Chesil or Bethul. Ziklag, Madiannlah or Beth-marcabothi, Sansannlah or Hazar-suisah,Lebaoth or Beth-lebaloth, ShiThim or Sharuhen, and the double town Ain-rimnion or Enrimmon), besides three villages dependent upon two of these (namely, Hazor-hadattlah and Kerioth-hezron or Hazor-amam [belonging to Hazor proper], and Hazar-gaddah [to Hazar-shual]), and in addition two of the towns in the plain (namely, Ether and Ashan), with others doubtless not here enumerated.

The plain district or "valley" was again subdivided into four sections-the first comprising (originally) fourteen towns (Gederah and Gederothaim being the same), situated in the north-western corner of the tribe; the second comprising sixteen towns, situated immediately south of this, in the western part of the tribe; the third comprising nine towns (two of which,' as above, were afterwards set off to Simeon, doubtless lying on the southern boundary between the tribes), situated east of the last group and south of the preceding, in the middle of the tribe, east of the road leading from Eleutheropolis to Jerusalem; the fourth comprising the five principal Philistine towns, situated on the extreme west of the tribe along the Mediterranean coast (Ekron being really in Dan, and Gath-mizpeh in the "valley"). The highland district, or "mountains," was likewise subdivided into five groups-the first containing eleven chief towns, situated along the border of Simeon, in the middle: the second containing nine chief cities, situated immediately north of the foregoing in the southern part of the tribe around Helron: the third containing ten metropolitan towns, situated immediately east of the two preceding; the fourth embracing six principal cities, situated immediately north of the last two groups, as far as Jerusalem, on the northern boundary; and the fifth containing only two metropolitan towns, situated in the northern medial angle between the last- named group and the valley district. The remaining districts embraced the desert tract or "wilderness" along the Dead Sea, and included six chief towns (Beth-arabah being in Benjamin). The remarkable addition in the Septuagint (at  Joshua 15:59) of eleven cities (namely, Tekoah, Bethlehem, Phagor, Etam, Kulon, Tatam, Saris, Iareli, Gallim, Bether, and Menuchah), probably real localities (see each in its place), is perhaps entitled to a place in the genuine text; and would indicate a group between the third land fourth above, reaching to Jerusalem (Kulon, Saris, and Gallim being in Benjamin).

5. Simeon. This tribe had a portion set off from the above bounded territory of Judah ( Joshua 19:1-8), embracing some seventeen or twenty cities (according as we make several in the list identical or different), of which only two or three have been located with any degree of definiteness, namely, Beer-sheba (probably Bir-es-Saba), Moladah (perhaps el-Miil), and Hormah (or Zephath, possibly represented by the pass es-Sutif); this much only is evident, that they all lay on the extreme south of Judah, and we shall therefore probably be not far from correct if we draw the dividing line between Judah and Simeon west by north from the Dead Sea at Massada, up Wady Sebbeh, thence cross in the same direction front Ehdeit, just south of Arad (Tell Arad) and Jattir (Attir),to the junction of Wady Khamleilifeh with Wady Khulil; thence still in the same direction up the former of these wadies to the summit of the mounts of Judah; thence west by south (along Wady Sheriah) to the Mediterranean, a short distance south of Gaza (Ghuzzeh).

6. Benjamin. On the north, following the boundary of Ephraim ( Joshua 16:1-3;  Joshua 16:6;  Joshua 18:11-13), beginning at the Jordan opposite Jericho (probably at the mouth of Wady Nuwaimeh); thence (across the plain of the Jordan along this wady) to the northward of Jericho ( Joshua 18:12) (so as to include Zemaraim [es-Surnrah],  Joshua 18:22); thence northward ( Joshua 18:12) by the water east (i.e. north-east) of Jericho ( Joshua 16:1) (perhaps Ras el-Ain, which discharges its water in that direction) through the mountainous ( Joshua 18:12) desert (26:1) of Beth-aven (Beni-salim) ( Joshua 18:12), that extends from Jericho to the hilly region of Beth-el ( Joshua 16:1)-a description that appears to apply as well as any to the plain northwest of Jebel Kurunntul (Mt. Quarantania), the northern part of which the line would partly traverse, so as to include ( Joshua 18:23-24) Ophrah (perhaps et-Tayibeh) and O)hni (probably Jifna) (probably up Wady el-Anjeh) as it ascended Wady Habis, passing Natarah ( Joshua 16:7, Narath-Naaron) on the way, which lay east of Bethel ( 1 Chronicles 7:28) (perhaps at el-Nejenieh); from Bethel (now Beitin) (which, being included in Benjamin, the expression "to the side of Luz southward" [ Joshua 18:13] must be interpreted as indicating that the line ran between Beth-el on the south and the ancient site of Luz a little to the north, the two spots being distinguished in  Joshua 16:2, although occupying the same vicinity) the line passed (directly south-west naming the Nahlas road, west of Bireh [Beeroth]), passing Alchi (situated perhaps at the ruined Kefr-musr) ( Joshua 16:2) to Ataroth (called also Ataroth-adar or- Ataroth-addarl), in a lower spot near the hill oil the south side of Beth- horon the lower ( Joshua 18:13), yet with some interval to the east of this last place ( Joshua 16:3), and at the southern extremity of this part of the line l between Ephraim and Benjamin (that faced the east), not far from Beth-horton the upper ( Joshua 16:5), and west of Naiarah on that part of the same line near the Jordan (i.e. facing the south) ( Joshua 16:7); indications that all point to some site (for one place of the name seems to be designated, since these descriptions [ Joshua 16:5-6 last clause, 7] are all of parts of the same southern boundary of Ephraim [the first two clauses of  Joshua 16:6, and the whole of  Joshua 16:8, however, refer to the northern border as Keil, in his Comment, admits, although he confesses himself unable to clear up the difficulties of the passage], reckoned first [ Joshua 16:5-6 last clause] westward to Beth-horon, and thence back again [ Joshua 16:7] more minutely over the same line and eastward e to the Jordan) directly east of Beth-horon (doubtless the Atara, whose ruins are still found at this point, a little north of the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem; and in that case we must locate "the hill south of Beth-horon the nether" among the eminences opposite Belt Ur el-Tahta, on the south side of Wady Suleiman, through which this road runs); from Ataroth the line ran south- westerly along the Wady Suleiman, so as to include Chephirah ( Joshua 18:26) (probably Keftir, near this road), opposite the hill above described ( Joshua 18:14, where the expression rendered "compassed the corner of the sea" appears to signify [as some copies of the Sept. translate] a bend from a seaward [i.e. westerly] direction), an a again south-easterly to Kirjathjearimn (thus forming the western side), where it joined the boundary of Judah, which it followed back to the Jordan, and so up to the point of beginning.

The towns of this tribe enumerated in  Joshua 18:21-28 appear to be classed under two general sections - the twelve in  Joshua 18:21-24 lying north and east of Jerusalem, while the fourteen others occupy the more southern and western portion of the territory. At least one of these cities, Kiljath- jearim, was really (eventually) within the limits of the adjoining tribe, Judah ( Judges 18:12).

7. Dan. This tribe was bounded by the Mediterranean on the west, and by the tribes of Judah on the south, Benjamin on the east, and Ephraim on the north. (The Danites also conquered from the Cananites Leshem or Laish, in the extreme northern part of Palestine, within the bounds of Manasseh east, and retained it under the name of Dan.) The only position unidentified is the northern boundary, which will be considered under Ephraim.

8 . Ephraim. The Mediterranean was the western and the Jordan the eastern boundary. The southern boundary has been already defined from the Jordan westward as far as Ataroth from this point it passed westward (to the Jaffa road), in the vicinity of Japhleti (perhaps situated at Beit-Unia; but this word should probably be rendered "the Japhletites," i.e. family of Japhlet, a descendant of Asher [ 1 Chronicles 7:32-33], although it is difficult to explain their existence in this location), to Beth-horon the nether ( Joshua 16:3); thence more northerly (i.e. in a general north- westerly direction) to the Mediterranean (probably along tile Jaffa road to Wady Budrfis, and thence north on the western brow of the hills to Wady el-Atnjeh, which it may naturally have followed westward to the sea; for it excluded Batlath [Balait], Jehnd [Yehudieh], and Japho [Joppa],  Joshua 19:44-45, but. included Bethhorton and Gezer [Abu-churheb],  Joshua 21:21-22), passing on the way Gezer ( Joshua 16:3) west of Beth-el ( 1 Chronicles 7:2 S [the other passages where it is mentioned do not help to fix the locality more definitely]; lately thought to have been found in Tell Jazer). The remainder of the description of the southern boundary ( Joshua 16:5, last clause of 6, and whole of 7) is the same as that of Benjamin on the north.

The northern boundary (the account in  Joshua 16:7, with the exception of the first name, must be transposed so as to connect immediately with the description of the south border in  Joshua 16:5), beginning tat the Jordan (probably at the mouth of Wady Fusail), passed westward (up this wady, otherwise called Wady Mudadireh, or Burshek) to Taanath-shiloh ( Joshua 16:6) (probably the present Ain-Fhria); thence north-westerly to Tappulah ( Joshua 17:7) (probably the Belad el-Taffne [or Atuf] mentioned by some travelers east of Shechem); thence northerly to Michmnethah (16:61,  Joshua 17:7) (apparently at the intersection of the line with Wady Tubas); thence, with a north-westerly curve, to Asher (ibid.) (probably represented by the modern Yasir) thence the line is only given in general terms as extending to the river Kanah on the Mediterranean ( Joshua 16:8;  Joshua 17:9) (no doubt the present Nahr Falaik, which is the principal marshy stream in that region).

9. Manasseh West. The boundaries of this tribe are given with great indistinctness, and must be in part collected from the contiguous portions of Ephraim, Asher, and Issachar, from which certain towns were set off in addition to its proper territory ( Joshua 17:11). From the Mefgditerranean, the northern boundary, beginning at Carmel (for Dor, below Carmel, is included [ibid.; 19:26]), and following the edge of the mountain (probably along the Kishon [Nahr-el-Mukattah]) south-easterly (as far as Joklneamn [Tell-el-Kamon ], and thence keeping the mountain more closely so as to throw the plain of Esdraelmo entirely within Issachar [ Genesis 49:15]), so as to include ( Joshua 17:11) Meriddo (Lejjun), Taanach (Ta'anuk), but so as to exclude ( Joshua 19:21) En-gannlim (Jenii); thence (with a sharp curve) due north (on the west brow of Mts. Gilboa and Little Herrnon), so as to include En-dor (Endiur) ( Joshua 17:11), but not Jezreel (Zerin), nor Chesulloth (Iksal), nor Shunem (Solam) ( Joshua 19:18), nor Tabor (vol. 21): thence (with another sharp curve) south-east (probably down Wady Oskeh), so as to include Beth-shean (Beisan) ( Joshua 17:11), to the Jordan, which formed the eastern boundary.

10. Issachar. This tribe was hemmed in on the south, by Manasseh West, on the west by Asher, and on the north by Zebulon, leaving, only the Jordan as a natural boundary on the east ( Joshua 19:22).

11. Zebulun In Jacob's dying blessing ( Genesis 49:13), the territory o f this tribe is prophetically described as being suitable for maritime purposes, and as extending along a sea as far as Sidol, which must le explained as meaning that it reached Phoenicia, through which latter seafaring people a communication was kept up through the river Kishon and the harbor at Carmel. In  Joshua 19:10-15, the boundaries are definitely laid down thus: Be ginning at a place called Sarid, which is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, but which, is here described as situated eastward from the Mediterranean, with high country intervening, one or two stations distant from the river before Jokneam (doubtless the Kishon), also as situated west of Chisloth-tabor, and beyond (i.e. south of) Daberath and Japhia, and finally on the southern boundary (for the northern line is subsequently described); all which details point to some spot about midway on the northern side of the plain of Esdraelons (probably the ruins on the "Mount of Precipitation," near el-Mezraah, on the north-west); thence westward ("towards the sea"), passing Maralah (perhaps at Mujeidil) and Dabbasheth (perhaps the present Jebuta), to the Kishon opposite Jokneam (probably Tell el-Kuurntn); then returning to Sarid, and passing northerly in the general direction of Chislou Tabor (Iksail) and Daberath (Debhfrieh) (leaving these ins Issachar), so as on the way to include Japhia (Yafa) (situated on higher ground); thence (northward) facing the east to Gittah- hepher (or Gath-hepher,  2 Kings 14:25) (at el-Meshad) (included within Zebulun) and Ittah-kazin (perhaps the modern Kefr Kenna); finally (as regards the southern line) extending (due north) in the direction of Rimmon That Pertains To Neah ("Rimmon-methoar to Neah") (the former answering doubtless to Rumaneh and the latter possibly to Nirmrin, the names apparently being associated as adjacent) (and excluding both these, as will appear presently), so as to meet the line of Naphtali in Aznoth-tabor (apparently Kurn Hattin) ( Joshua 19:34). After this the description applies to the northern boundary (for the expression "compasseth it [Rimmon] on the north side" cannot mean that the southern border passed to the north of Rimmon, as this place belonged to Zebulun [ 1 Chronicles 6:17, which likewise includes Tabor, i.e. apparently Hattin, in the same tribe]), which does not appear to have extended to the Sea of Galilee (since the northern border of Issachar terminated at the Jordan [ Joshua 19:22], and the border of Naphiali, as it included various towns on the southern end of the shore [ Joshua 19:35;  Matthew 4:13], as well as Aznoth-tabor [ Joshua 19:34], must have passed up to this last point not far from the Wady Bestuin), turning (with a north-westerly sweep) "so as to exclude (ibid.) Hukkok (Yakufk), and, passing (apparently west) along Wady Selanmeh, so as to include Hunnethon (perhaps Deir Hlannali), and running (south-west) to the valley of Jiphthah-el (probably marked by the modern Jefat), where it met the border ofAsher ( Joshua 19:27).

In the enumeration of the border and interior towns of this tribe ( Joshua 19:10-15), twelve metropolitan cities only are counted, six others (Maralah, Jokneam, Chislothtabor, Daberath, Ittah-kazin, and Jiphthah-el) being situated outside the boundary line.

12. Asher. The description of the boundary ( Joshua 19:24-30) begins with a generals statement of several towns Helkath (perhaps Ukreth), Hall (perhaps Alia), Beteni (perhaps el-Baneh), Achshaph (probably Kesaf), Alamrimelech (probably some place on the Waidy el-Melek), Amad (perhaps Shefu-namar), and Mishal (probably Missalli)-as lying near the border, which, crossing Carmel, reached to Shihor-libnuath (perhaps Wady Milheh), just above Dor (see 17:11), leaving in Naphtali the city of Heleph (probably Beit lif); then returning: eastward the same line, passing Beth- dagon (probably Hajeb) and the city of Zebulun (now Alidin) as far as Jiphthah-el, pursued this last valley northward past Beth-eniek and Neiel, leaving Cabul (Kabul) on the north, and, including several cities generally described .(Hebron [i.e. Abdon], Rehob, Hammomi, and Kanah), ran east of north (doubtless so as to strike the Litany), and then was continued as the northern boundary about opposite Sidon, where (without including the Philenician sea-coast): it turned south-westerly (as the western border) past Tyre as far as Achzib (Zib).

In the recapitulation of the cities of this tribe ( Joshua 19:25-30), twenty-two metropolitan towns only are reckoned, three others (Jiphthah- el, Sidon, and Tyre) being outside the border, and two other names (Carmel and Shitior-libnath) it being towns.

13. Naphtai was bounded by Issachar, Zebulun, and Asher on the south and west, and extended as far as Mount Hermon on the north, and eastward by the sea of Galilee, the Jordan, sea of Merom, and the Damascus road, extending to Juduah-upon-Jordan (Tell Naby Sidihnda), and including, Beth-shemesh (Medjel es-Sheirns) ( Joshua 19:22). The northerly limits of this tribe are stated in the general boundaries of Palestine (q.v.), laid down in  Numbers 34:7-11, as follows: A line from the Mediterranean Sea crossing the mountain-range (Lebanon, or its offshoot Hermon), and intersecting the "entrance to 1iamath" (Coele-Syria or the valley of the Leontes) apparently at Zedad (perhaps the present Jedeimdeh); thence to Ziphrou (probably another place in the same valley [possibly Kankaha]), and so by way of Hazar-enan (perhaps Hasbeya) to the edge of the Hanuran. From Hazarenan, the southern boundary bent southward (so as to firm in part the eastern boundary), so as to follow substantially the eastern arm of the-upper Jordan, taking in successively Shepham (perhaps Caesare Philippi; comp. Baal-gad in  Joshua 11:17) and Riblah (not the Iiblah of Hamath, but a much: more southerly place), east of Ain (perhaps the spring of Tell el-Kady), and so on down to the sea of Galilee. The account in  Ezekiel 47:14-17 (which is evidently a. copy of that in Numbers) contains the following additional names: Hethlon, Berothah, Sibraim, and Hazar-hatticon, which (at least the middle two), from their association with Hamath, appear (in this vague enumeration) to have been situated beyond the bounds of the Oriental Promised Land altogether.

In the sum of the cities enumerated in connection with this tribe, nineteen metropolitan towns only are included, five of the names (Allon-zaanaim, Adami-nekeb, Ziddimzer, Hammath rakkath, and Migdal el Horem) being double, and two others (Aznoth-tabor and Judah-upon Jordan) lying outside the border. (See Palestine).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

trı̄b (in the Old Testament always for מטּה , maṭṭeh , 183 times, or שׁבט , shēbheṭ , 145 times, also spelled שׁבט , shebheṭ  ; Aramaic שׁבט , shebhaṭ (  Ezra 6:17 )): Both words mean "staff," and perhaps "company led by chief with staff" ( OHL , 641) is the origin of the meaning "tribe." In the Apocrypha and New Testament always for φυλή , phulḗ , from φύω , phúō , "beget," with δωδεκάφυλον , dōdekáphulon , "twelve tribes," in  Acts 26:7 . Of the two Hebrew words, shēbhet appears to be considerably the older, and is used in  Psalm 74:2;  Jeremiah 10:16;  Jeremiah 51:19 of the whole people of Israel, and in   Numbers 4:18;  Judges 20:12 (Revised Version margin);   1 Samuel 9:21 (Revised Version margin) of subdivisions of a tribe (but the text of most of these six verses is suspicious). Further, in   Isaiah 19:13 , shēbheṭ is used of the "tribes" (nomes?) of Egypt and phulē in  Matthew 24:30 of "all the tribes of the earth," but otherwise shēbheṭ , maṭṭeh and phulē refer exclusively to the tribes of Israel. In  2 Samuel 7:7 for shibheṭē , "tribes," read shōpheṭē , "judges" (of the Revised Version margin).