The 13 tribes map to the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. Since 13 does not divide evenly, there must be a trick. There is. This article explores.
One morning, after searching each occurrence of "Gad" in Scripture I stumbled upon a strategy for mapping the tribes of Israel to the books of the Bible. Though I had never seen how to map these before, what fell out was simple and compelling given what we know about the tribes.
The lesson began with the realization that Gad had a son named "Haggai" mentioned in Genesis 46. The question was whether the book by the same name was related to the tribe of Gad.
Reading the short book of Haggai confirmed a general match to Gad. Gad is a "raider" concerned about treasure, like the Conquistadors of Spain or the Pirates of the Caribbean popularized by the Disney Land ride and recent movies. In Haggai the people are concerned about their own houses and not Yahvah's house. Consider these key verses at the beginning of Haggai:
7Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited. 8On the day of the LORD's sacrifice I will punish the princes and the king's sons and all those clad in foreign clothes. 9On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit. (Zephaniah 1:7-9 NIV)
Stand in awe at the presence of Master Yahvah; for the day of Yahvah is at hand; yes, Yahvah has prepared sacrifices, he has invited his guests. 8It will come to pass in the day of Yahvah's sacrifice,that I will punish the princes and the king's sons, and all such as are clothed in strange apparel.
9In that day, I will punish all those who do violence and those who plunder, who fill their master's houses with things acquired by means of extortion and deceit. (Zephaniah 1:7-9 BRB)
7¶Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.bid: Heb. sanctified, or, prepared 8And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.punish: Heb. visit upon 9In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. (Zephaniah 1:7-9 KJV)
The idea that God "blew" away what the people "brought home" is consistent with Gad's pattern of caring about the treasures in his own house instead of God's house. The opposite of course is to care about God's house and lavish on it, which eventually happens in Haggai as the people begin to build and is evident throughout gold-encrusted churches in Spain. Yet the connection goes further.
Gad is spelled "sickle door" in Hebrew, which means "reaped through the door" as in acquiring "goods." When Yahvah says to the people in Haggai 1:9 that he blew away what they "brought home" he is playing directly to the spelling of Gad in Hebrew. This helps confirm the match between the tribe and book.
Having learned how Gad and Haggai match I still did not understand how the rest of the tribes and books matched. In fact I wasn't even looking. I thought the match between Gad and Haggai was a one-off thing, even if neat.
A few days later I was reading in Revelation and came across a passage that seemed to match the book of Ecclesiastes and the tribe of Simeon. The passage was dealing with "counsel," which is a key idea for Simeon. Ecclesiastes is an example of bad counsel. Simeon offers bad and good counsel just as Gad uses treasure sometimes for ungodly reasons and other times for godly reasons.
As I pondered the possible match between Ecclesiastes and Simeon I realized Ecclesiastes is 4 books after Haggai and Simeon is 4 tribes after Gad.
Note, the book order I'm using is defined in the BRB text. See brb.paleo.in and the tribe order is that given in Revelation 7.
With two candidate matches in place it remained only to write in the other tribes next to the books and see if there was further correlation. The following table is what fell out.
|Judah||S. Samuel||Amos||Nahum||S. John||F. John|
|Reuben||F. Kings||Hosea||Habbakuk||S. Timothy||F. Peter|
|Gad||S. Kings||Haggai||F. Chronicles||F. Corinthians||S. Peter|
|Zebulun||Deuteronomy||Esther||S. of Solomon||Acts||Jude|
|Dan||F. Samuel||Jonah||Malachi||S. Thessalonians||Colossians|
Notes on mapping
In the past when I considered how the tribes might map to the books I always tripped up on the fact that no matter how you slice it at least some tribe would have one more book than the others. I could never figure out how that would work, nor imagine starting the map at tribe six, Manasseh, so I just dismissed the idea that the tribes and books mapped at all. Now I realize Manasseh has an extra book because he holds the double portion. Remember Manasseh had two territories in ancient Israel too.
To do this space justice one really has to read the whole Bible, one tribe at a time, and survey what exactly the Bible has to say directly about the tribes. The following observations are just a taste of what I believe this grid offers a motivated reader.
Judah aligned with Second Samuel and the story where God covenants with David is a good match.
Reuben's sin in his youth, sleeping with his father's wife, is perhaps picked up in his match to Hosea. In more redemptive terms, Reuben is wired for intimacy in relationship (which is not necessarily physical). He can be close and intimate with God in special ways that are often shown in the example of the prophets like Elijah, Hosea, Habakkuk, Paul and those Peter speaks about.
Gad hits Second Kings, the dispersion of the tribes into the world. Gad of course became Spain and eventually sailed away from the "old world" to discover the "new world" and populate much of it. The same theme resonates at the end of Second Peter when Peter says we're looking for new skies and new lands. Israel left Egypt on Gad's holiday, the opening day of Unleavened Bread, and Gad lead the crossing of the Jordan river and defeat of Israel's opponents. Gad seems to be the tribe that goes to new lands.
Manasseh has one more book than the other tribes to match his extra territory as the double portion holder. Boils is the Egyptian plague that matches Manasseh, which comes through in the book of Job. Job of course losses everything only to gain back double the amount after his ordeal.
Simeon hits Lamentations since as per Jacob's prophecy he is unable to keep all the territories he would have held had he obeyed Jacob. Everyone lost Jerusalem (especially Benjamin) when it fell, but Simeon lives in a perpetual lamentation through history as his territories fall back into control of the other nations and he's simply mixed in (think New Orleans for an example within the US). Simeon also has a strong theme of counsel, though sometimes he gives or follows bad counsel. Ecclesiastes is the book that sounds like good counsel, though really it's a depressing lamentation from a king who followed his heart rather than Jesus and is decrying what he "learned."
Levi lands on Leviticus. That's obvious. Ezra is also a fairly obvious match. Jacob (wrongly known as James) is Jesus' brother and one of the visible leaders of the early church. He's probably another example of an Ezra or Levite or Priest type.
Zebulun has a theme of origins, foundations, beginnings and such. He lands on books like Deuteronomy and Acts as they represent key origins of stuff God was doing in the world.