THE MODERN IDENTITY OF
THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
We are frequently asked for information concerning the identity of the modern-day descendants of the tribes of Israel. We have been able to do this as far as Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah are concerned in our book, "The United States and Britain in Prophecy".
It is more difficult to prove the identity of the other tribes, however, because the prophecies relating to them are relatively few and couched in terms that are by no means easy to understand at present. Consequently, it becomes a matter of comparing the characteristics of the individual tribes, in conjunction with as much of the prophetic details as are reasonably clear, with the characteristics of the various European nations today. The main characteristics we are to look for are found in Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33.
Let's begin with the tribe of Reuben, Jacob's firstborn son. One notable feature is that, in the latter days (Genesis 49:1), the nation and the people of Reuben would exhibit an unstable nature - "unstable as water". This is very symptomatic of France and the French Government, although the Government is a little more stable now than it has been in the past. When conditions arise which promote similar circumstances to those of the immediate post‑war years, however, then the same instability is going to be exhibited and could be a vital factor in the events that are destined to lead our peoples into captivity.
You will notice in verse 3 that Jacob referred to Reuben as "the excellence of dignity". There is no doubt that France has portrayed this characteristic to the world. In the past, she was called the "queen of culture".
We cannot say that all who call themselves French today are descended from Reuben, any more than we could say that all who live in Britain are Ephraimites and all who live in America are Manassites. It appears that the northern French are of Israelitish stock, but that the darker Mediterranean type are probably of Gentile origin.
Next, consider the people of Holland, or the Netherlands. They could very well be the descendants of Zebulun. Notice, in Genesis 49:13, that Zebulun was to dwell at the haven of the sea. That is where Holland is located today. It truly is a haven of ships, and its excellent harbours at Amsterdam and Rotterdam deal with major shipping lines throughout the world. Zebulun was to be a tribe that would "rejoice" - be blessed - "in thy going out" (Deut. 33:18). In other words, Zebulun would be blessed in commercial enterprises and voyages by sea.
In the Seventeenth Century, Holland was one of the great sea and Colonial powers of Europe. She played an important part in the exploration of the world, and established several colonies as a result. It is interesting to note that, even though a relatively small country, the Netherlands had the ninth largest shipping fleet in the world in 1956.
Now consider a statement in Deuteronomy 33:19, where Zebulun is described as obtaining abundance of wealth from the seas - "for they shall suck the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand." The Netherlands has always been able to do this in several ways. One is through international commerce by the use of her shipping fleet. Another way has been through the reclamation of land from the sea. The Dutch are well-known for building dykes and reclaiming land for the use of farming. The tulip industry of Holland is dependant on these lands which have been reclaimed, or "sucked from the sea".
The prophecy relating to Gad in Genesis 49:19 is not too well understood, but there is one particular nation - a European democracy - which is characterized by a statement made in Deuteronomy 33:21. Although the exact wording of this verse is not clear, Gad is spoken of in the context of a lawgiver, and as one who is closely associated with the leaders of nations. Which nation today acts as host to world conferences where world statesmen meet together to try to resolve some of the world's problems and to execute justice? It's Switzerland. The name "Geneva" and world peace conferences have almost become synonymous.
The ancient tribe of Asher was characterized by qualities which are very evident in Belgium today. Jacob prophesied of Asher, "his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties." Belgium has long been recognized for her cakes and pastries, as well as for her lace and tapestries. These have all been coveted by the courts of Europe in the past, and are now world renowned.
We believe that the tribes of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali and Dan settled in the countries of Scandinavia. Comparisons could be made between the characteristics of Issachar and Finland, Benjamin and Norway, Naphtali and Sweden, Dan and Denmark, but we cannot reach definite conclusions.
The tribe of Dan has certainly left its mark on Europe today. As the members of the tribe journeyed throughout Europe they named many places after their father Dan. It was their custom from the very beginning (Joshua 19:47 and Judges 18:11-12, 29). Just before his death, Moses prophesied, "Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from Bashan" (Deut. 33:22). Dan was to be a seafaring and colonising group of people. When the northern Danites left Bashan, they set up waymarks along the trail of their migrations by which they may be traced today.
Those Danites who lived on the seacoast in Palestine were primarily seamen who travelled by ship (Judges 5:17). Did they name the DarDANelles and the rivers in Europe such as the Don, Donets, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube?
Keating's History of Ireland traces the Tuatha de Danaan (Tribe of Dan") from Greece to Scandinavia ("Dansmark" and "Sve-DAN"). From there they went to Scotland and later across to Ireland. Another branch went from Greece to Spain then on to Ireland. According to Keating, the Tuatha de Danaan migrated to Ireland in 1456 B.C. This was during the time of the wandering in the wilderness under Moses. The total length of Danite dominion in Ireland was 440 years ‑‑ 1456 to 1016 B.C. (Keating, p. 158), after which the royal house of the Milesians began to rule. The Tuatha de Danaan brought with them a remarkable stone called the Lia-Fail or Stone of Destiny on which the kings sat while being crowned. It is now in the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey.
The only two tribes which remain to be mentioned are Simeon and Levi. These were not intended to settle and become individual nations. Because of the cruelty exhibited by the two patriarchs, their descendants were to be scattered throughout the territories of their brethren (Gen. 59:5-7).
These, then, could be the modern identities of the various tribes of Israel as far as we understand at present. As we approach the close of this age, the individual prophecies relating to them will probably become much clearer. As God opens our understanding to this knowledge, we will make it known through the pages of The PLAIN TRUTH and our other literature.
Personal Correspondence Department, The Plain Truth, c. 1980