The Sequence of the Tribes

  • Rav Michael Hattin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Introduction to Parashat Hashavua
Yeshivat Har Etzion


PARASHAT SHELACH

 

The Sequence of the Tribes

Part 2

 

By Rav Michael Hattin

 

INTRODUCTION

 

God spoke to Moshe saying: "send men on your behalf to search out the land of Canaan that I am giving to Bnei Yisrael.  Send one man from each tribe, and each one of them a leader."  Moshe sent them from Midbar Paran according to God's command, and all of them were chieftains of the people.  These were their names: for the tribe of Reuven – Shamu'a son of Zakur; for the tribe of Shimon – Shafat son of Chori; for the tribe of Yehuda – Calev son of Yefune; for the tribe of Yissachar – Yigal son of Yosef; for the tribe of Efraim – Hoshea son of Nun; for the tribe of Binyamin – Palti son of Rafue; for the tribe of Zevulun – Gadiel son of Sodi; for the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Menashe – Gadi son of Susi; for the tribe of Dan – Amiel son of Gemali; for the tribe of Asher – Setur son of Michael; for the tribe of Naftali – Nachbi son of Vofsi; for the tribe of Gad – Geuel son of Machi.  These are the names of the men that Moshe sent to search out the land, and Moshe called Hoshea's name "Yehoshua."

 

Moshe sent them to search out the land of Canaan.  He said to them: "go up by the south and ascend into the hill country.  Search out the terrain; ascertain whether the inhabitants are weak or strong, few or numerous.  Determine if the land in which they dwell is good or not, and if the cities in which they dwell are unfortified or walled.  See if the land is fertile or arid, forested or barren; be courageous and take from the fruits of the land."  During that time, the grapes were beginning to ripen." (Bemidbar 13:1-20). 

 

            These twelve men, all of them leaders among the Israelites, traveled to Canaan charged with the duel mandate of reporting on the land's natural abundance as well as ascertaining the strength of its inhabitants' defenses.  After forty days of discovery, they returned to the expectant masses.  While the spies bore redolent fruits attesting to Canaan's fertility, these were presented coupled with fearful reports of "great and fortified cities (defended by) the offspring of giants."  And as the resolve of the people of Israel quickly began to crumble, ten of the spies concluded with damning words of discouragement: "We will not be able to engage them in battle, for they are stronger than us!" (13:31).

 

            The rest, as they say, is history.  These ten spies went on to sate their citizens with further tales of terror, with frightening and disheartening reports of a harsh land populated by invincible inhabitants, while only two had the audacity to oppose the ominous report of their craven colleagues and to claim that with God's help the "very good land" could be conquered.  These two were none other than Yehoshua bin Nun of the tribe of Efraim, and Calev son of Yefune of the tribe of Yehuda.  But their impassioned pleas to the people to trust in God and to have confidence in themselves were soon drowned out by the panicked din of Israel's sobs.  In desperate dejection, the people cried out that night to God and then uttered the ineffable: "let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt!" (14:4).  In the end, that entire generation was condemned to perish in the inhospitable wilderness, to suffer the inevitable consequence of their rejection of the land, while their infamy was etched in Jewish consciousness forevermore:

 

"All of the congregation lifted up their voices, and the people cried that night" – Said Rabba in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: that very night was the night of the ninth of Av.  God said to them: You have cried out for no reason, but I will designate it for you to cry out for generations! (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Ta'anit 29a).

 

But even while the other ten members of the spy mission perished by Divinely initiated plague and all of the adult Israelites were destined to die in the wilderness, Yehoshua and Calev were given a pledge that they would survive to one day enter the bountiful land:

 

God said:…"as surely as I live, the glory of God will fill the world.  All of the men who saw My glory and My signs that I performed in the Egypt and in the wilderness – who nevertheless tested Me these ten times and did not listen to My words – they will not see the land that I swore to their ancestors.  All of those that blasphemed Me will not see it.  But My servant Calev, because he was possessed by a different spirit and followed after Me completely, him I will bring to the land to which he arrived, and his descendents will inherit it! "(Bemidbar 14:21-24).

 

THE SEQUENCE OF THE TRIBES - REVIEW

 

            In years past, we have explored the sin of spies at length and readers are invited to consult the archived articles.  This week, we will pick up our discussion where we left off a number of weeks ago, as we consider once again the order of the tribes.  Recall that with the reading of Parashat Bemidbar, the Torah introduced us to the tribal leaders of Israel, who were listed in a specific order for the sake of conducting a national census of the people (Bemidbar 1:5-15).  But then as the census was undertaken according to tribe, the Torah provided us with a slightly different order (Bemidbar 1:20-43).  This was repeated with some variation in the discussion that followed concerning the tribal ensigns (Bemidbar 2:1-31).  We compared these lists to that one preserved towards the end of Sefer Bemidbar, recorded on the eve of another census some forty years later (Bemidbar 26:5-51).  We compared it as well as with the earliest lists, those that are preserved in Sefer Bereishit and pertain to the story of the birth of Yaakov's children (Bereishit 29:32-30:24) and to their descent to Egypt (Bereishit 46:8-27).  This latter list of tribes that descended to Egypt was repeated with variations at the opening of Sefer Shemot (Shemot 1:1-7).  On the whole, we discovered that there were significant differences between the orders of the tribes as they appeared in these various contexts.  We tabulated our results as follows:

 

Bemidbar  1:5-15

Bemidbar  1:20-43

Bemidbar  2:1-31

Bereishit 29:32-30:24

Bereishit 46:8-27

Shemot  1:1-7

Bemidbar  26:5-51

Reuven

Reuven

Yehuda

Reuven

Reuven

Reuven

Reuven

Shimon

Shimon

Yissachar

Shimon

Shimon

Shimon

Shimon

Yehuda

Gad

Zevulun

Levi

Levi

Levi

Gad

Yissachar

Yehuda

Reuven

Yehuda

Yehuda

Yehuda

Yehuda

Zevulun

Yissachar

Shimon

Dan

Yissachar

Yissachar

Yissachar

Efraim

Zevulun

Gad

Naftali

Zevulun

Zevulun

Zevulun

Menashe

Efraim

Efraim

Gad

Gad

Binyamin

Menashe

Binyamin

Menashe

Menashe

Asher

Asher

Dan

Efraim

Dan

Binyamin

Binyamin

Yissachar

Yosef

Naftali

Binyamin

Asher

Dan

Dan

Zevulun

Binyamin

Gad

Dan

Gad

Asher

Asher

Yosef

Dan

Asher

Asher

Naftali

Naftali

Naftali

Binyamin

Naftali

Yosef

Naftali

 

ISOLATING THE DATA FROM SEFER BEMIDBAR

 

            Let us begin to analyze the data by isolating the information from Sefer Bemidbar, since it is in this book that the greatest number of references occurs.  We must, however, add one more section, namely the list of tribal leaders preserved towards the end of the Book.  At that time, after the end of the forty years of wandering, the people of Israel prepare in earnest to enter the land.  In a section reminiscent of our spies list but representing a complete reversal of its ominous and tragic dיnouement, the tribal leaders are once again recounted, this time in preparation for the allotment of the countryside of Canaan among the people (Bemidbar 34:16-29). 

 

            Of course, it should not surprise us that three tribes are entirely absent from this final list of Sefer Bemidbar – Levi, Reuven and Gad – since these were not slated to inherit a portion of land in the promised land of Canaan.  The tribe of Levi was designated as God's special share and denied a lot of terra firma so that they might more enthusiastically devote themselves to His service (see Bemidbar 18:2-24).  As for Reuven and Gad, they had already been assigned their share of the new land on the eastern side of the Yarden, after the conquest of the mighty Amorite kings Sichon and Og who had possessed it aforetime (see Bemidbar Chapter 32; 34:1-15).  Although part of the tribe of Menashe had also been designated to inherit the Transjordan, the bulk of the tribe crossed over and dwelt with their brethren in Canaan.  Hence, the tribe of Menashe is included in the list.  The list reads as follows:

 

God spoke to Moshe saying: These are the names of the men who will inherit the land with you – Elazar the priest and Yehoshua son of Nun.  You shall designate one prince per tribe, one prince per tribe, in order to allot the land.  These are the names of the men: for the tribe of YEHUDA – Calev son of Yefune; for the tribe of SHIMON – Shemuel son of Amihud; for the tribe of BINYAMIN – Elidad son of Kislon; a prince for the tribe of DAN – Buki son of Yogli; For the sons of YOSEF, a prince for the tribe of MENASHE – Chaniel son of Efod; a prince for the tribe of the children of EFRAIM – Kemuel son of Shiftan; a prince for the tribe of the children of ZEVULUN – Elizafan son of Parnach; a prince for the tribe of the children of YISSACHAR – Paltiel son of Azan; a prince for the tribe of the children of ASHER – Achihud son of Shelomi; a prince for the tribe of the children of NAFTALI – Pedahel son of Amihud.  These are the ones whom God commanded to distribute the land to the people of Israel in the land of Canaan (Bemidbar 34:16-29).

 

Let us once again tabulate the results, this time focusing upon Sefer Bemidbar exclusively and incorporating our new data:

 

Bemidbar

Bemidbar

Bemidbar

Bemidbar

Bemidbar

Bemidbar

1:5-15

1:20-43

2:1-31

13:4-15

26:5-51

34:19-28

PRINCES 1

CENSUS 1

ENSIGNS

SPIES

CENSUS 2

PRINCES 2

Reuven

Reuven

Yehuda

Reuven

Reuven

Yehuda

Shimon

Shimon

Yissachar

Shimon

Shimon

Shimon

Yehuda

Gad

Zevulun

Yehuda

Gad

Binyamin

Yissachar

Yehuda

Reuven

Yissachar

Yehuda

Dan

Zevulun

Yissachar

Shimon

Efraim

Yissachar

Menashe

Efraim

Zevulun

Gad

Binyamin

Zevulun

Efraim

Menashe

Efraim

Efraim

Zevulun

Menashe

Zevulun

Binyamin

Menashe

Menashe

Menashe

Efraim

Yissachar

Dan

Binyamin

Binyamin

Dan

Binyamin

Asher

Asher

Dan

Dan

Asher

Dan

Naftali

Gad

Asher

Asher

Naftali

Asher

 

Naftali

Naftali

Naftali

Gad

Naftali

 

 

GENERAL FEATURES

 

            We note immediately that the two census lists – the one from the opening of the book and the one towards its conclusion, the one that counted the generation that left Egypt and the one that enumerated the people poised to enter the new land – are almost identical.  Only one small variation exists between them and that is the reversal of Efraim and Menashe.  In the first list, Efraim is counted first while in the second it is Menashe.

 

            We also note that the ensign list is also almost identical to these two.  In fact the listing of the tribes is in exactly the same order as the first census, except that one of the triads has been shifted.  Whereas the census list began with the triad of Reuven, Shimon and Gad, and then listed the second grouping of Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun, the ensigns list reverses these triads: first Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun, and then Reuven, Shimon and Gad.  Otherwise, the lists are the same.

 

            The remaining lists, especially the second list of the tribal princes, require further elaboration and in order to formulate a general principal, we would do well to consider what might be termed the "natural order" of the tribes.  Recall that in Bereishit 29:32-30:24, the Torah narrates the birth of the sons of Yaakov in chronological order.  Reuven is followed by Shimon, Levi and Yehuda.  These are succeeded by Dan and Naftali, Gad and Asher.  Yissachar and Zevulun are next, followed finally by Yosef and Binyamin.  This list reflects the story of the birth of the tribes but it is never repeated again, not in the remainder of Sefer Bereishit, not in Sefer Shemot nor in Sefer Bemidbar.  Instead, what typically happens in these other lists is that the strict chronological birth order is modified into a new order, one that is inspired by the respective mothers of these tribes, namely Leah, Rachel, Zilpa, and Bilha. 

 

            Recall that Leah and Rachel were sisters, and that their respective handmaidens were Zilpa and Bilha.  If we were to list the sons according to not only their chronological birth order but also as a function of their mothers, then what we have is the following:

 

LEAH AND RACHEL – THEIR HANDMAIDENS AND THEIR OFFSPRING

 

            Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun were all sons of Leah; Gad and Asher were the offspring of Leah's handmaiden Zilpa; Yosef and Binyamin were the sons of Rachel, while Dan and Naftali were the children of Rachel's handmaiden Bilha.  A list arranged this way – Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, Zevulun / Gad, Asher / Yosef, Binyamin / Dan, Naftali – corresponds exactly to the list preserved in Bereishit 46:8-27.  This is entirely appropriate, since the context of this list is the story of the nascent clans of Israel descending to Egypt.  The chronological order of the births is therefore modified according to the budding tribal arrangements which are hierarchically dictated by the respective birth mothers.  It seems that the tribes are here arranged according to a general binary breakdown that might be termed "the house of Leah" and the "house of Rachel", where each house consists of the wife of Yaakov and her respective handmaiden.

 

            The list at the opening of the Book of Shemot follows this outline except that this time the tribes are broken down according to Leah and Rachel specifically, only then to be followed by their respective handmaidens.  Therefore the sons of Leah – Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun – are succeeded by Binyamin the son of Rachel.  Dan and Naftali the two offspring of Rachel's handmaiden Bilha are followed by Gad and Asher the sons of Zilpa, and the list is then rounded out by Yosef "who was in Egypt."  In this case, it is Yosef's geographical location that dictates the order.  Since the section is about the sons of Yaakov "who came to Egypt" (Shemot 1:1), Yosef must perforce be excluded since he was already there.  He must be left until the end of the list.  In order not to downplay his importance (was he not after all the cause of the family's preservation?), he is offset not against Dan and Naftali his closer kin but rather against Gad and Asher who are allied with Leah but are more distant relations to him.  This technique has the effect of dispelling any confusion about Yosef's status: though he naturally belongs with Binyamin, he must be listed separately because he was already in Egypt; had the sons of the handmaidens been listed after Binyamin according to their "house" – Gad and Asher from Leah, and Dan and Naftali from Rachel as in Bereishit 46, then Yosef would have been appended to the sons of his mother's handmaiden, a potentially confusing diminution of his status.

 

THE ORDER OF THE CAMP

 

            So much for the Bereishit and Shemot references.  Turning now to Sefer Bemidbar, we note that the first list of tribal princes in preparation for the census roughly follows the chronological outline as modified by the Leah/Rachel division, except that a prince of Levi is conspicuously absent since that tribe was to be counted separately.  Thus Leah's birth children – Reuven, Shimon, Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulun – are followed by Rachel's sons.  Here, however, Yosef has been replaced by Efraim and Menashe in keeping with aged Yaakov's blessing (see Bereishit 48:5-6), but these two are appropriately followed by Binyamin.  Dan and Asher, Gad and Naftali follow, but we note that here the sons of the handmaidens have been inexplicably intertwined, as if the division between the children of Yaakov's wives on the one hand and the children of their respective handmaidens on the other is perhaps more decisive than any intertribal divisions among the sons of the handmaidens themselves.  In any case, we may state as a general observation that once again the internal order of the tribal template has been modified by the demands of the local context.

 

            This deliberate adaptation of a general scheme by the exigencies of the specific context is emphasized by the list that follows, namely the census of Chapter 1.  Here, Reuven and Shimon are followed by Gad, uncomfortably pushing Yehuda further down the list!  But once again, we can resolve the matter by noting that the census listing is in preparation for the journey to the land that must surely follow, a journey that will be undertaken with the camp organized according to tribal ensigns.  Now twelve tribes that must be divided according to quadrants have to be broken down into groups of threes.  Since Rachel had three offspring (since Yosef was counted as two separate tribes – Efraim and Menashe), these could all be grouped together and located on the camp's western side.  But Leah had only five sons; how could these be broken down into ensigns?

 

            Enter Gad to break the impasse.  Reuven was Leah's firstborn and hence deserving of a separate ensign.  It is natural that he should have been joined by Shimon, the next in line.  But Yehuda was already at this point the natural leader of the people (as already foreshadowed by the events surrounding Binyamin's rescue from the viceroy's clutches – see Bereishit 43:8-15; 44:18-34; and 46:28).  Certainly the tribe of Yehuda could not be appended to the ensign of Reuven like one of the minor clans!  Therefore, Yehuda was given his own special triad consisting of Leah's other natural children – Yissachar and Zevulun.  How then to complete the first triad since Leah only had five sons and Yehuda required his own grouping?  The natural answer, of course, was to include Gad with Reuven and Shimon, since Gad was the firstborn of Zilpa, Leah's handmaiden.  Thus two ensigns were now allied with the "house of Leah" – the honored Yehuda ensign that was entirely "Leahesque" in origins, and the Reuven ensign that included her son through Zilpa.  As for the last ensign, it consisted of course of Dan, Asher and Naftali, a triad that was composed entirely of the offspring of handmaidens.  While here Bilha's offspring (Dan and Naftali) were combined with Zilpa's (Asher) this was because Gad had already been allied with Reuven and Shimon so that only three tribes remained.

 

            In effect, then, there is no fundamental difference between the list in CENSUS 1 and that of the ENSIGNS.  Both are organized in intimation of the arrangement of the Israelite camp that is to shortly follow in preparation for the journey towards the land.  The difference is, however, that in the census list, the primacy of Reuven is still assumed, since the counting of children and clans must closely follow the birth order as a matter of convention.  But the ensign list quickly dispels any misconceptions by placing Yehuda first, breaking in an instant an earlier list predicated upon entitlement and replacing it with one that introduces the primacy of merit.  Just as in the original story Reuven the firstborn had shown himself unequal to the task of leading his brothers, unable to either save Yosef from the other brothers (Bereishit 37:32-36) or else to win Yaakov's confidence is safeguarding Binyamin (Bereishit 42:37-38), so here as well the tribe of the firstborn son is eclipsed by that of Yehuda.  In fact, it is the ensign of Yehuda that is assigned the honored eastern flank, associated with the priestly family of Aharon, the executive family of Moshe, as well as the hallowed approach to the entrance of the Mishkan itself.

 

THE EPISODE OF THE SPIES AND THE SECOND CENSUS

 

            Our parasha, of course, recounts the episode of the spies and these are listed in a completely unexpected manner.  To our consternation, we note that the Leah sons are INTERMIXED with the Rachel sons – Reuven, Shimon, Yehuda and Yissachar are followed by Efraim and Binyamin.  The last son of Leah – Zevulun – is then succeeded by Menashe son of Rachel, and then the list is rounded out by the tribes of the handmaidens – Dan, Asher, Naftali and Gad – that are also interspersed!  Once again, though, perhaps context holds the answer.  While the sin of the spies is yet to unfold when the Parasha lists these men, we the readers are acutely aware from the moment that the mission commences that the fate of all Israel hangs in the balance.  The spies will scout out the land as representatives of the nation and their report will impact upon everyone.  No individual tribe will be excluded from the collective destiny of them all.  Might the text of the Torah be alluding to this fact by provocatively listing the twelve men in a manner that breaks the ancient hierarchy of birthright and begins to undermine tribalism?  Might the list not suggest an attempt to overcome ancient rivalries and instead foster equality and unity?  Might the listing of the spies be nothing less than a Divine invitation to not succumb to divisiveness and instead rise to the occasion of entering the new land by fostering camaraderie and friendship?

 

            As for the second census, the one undertaken in the final year of the wilderness wanderings and recounted in Bemidbar 26:5-51, we have already noted that the tribes are listed in a sequence that is almost identical to that of the first census.  The only minor change concerns the order of Efraim and Menashe.  In the first census, these tribes are listed in this order while in the second they are reversed.  This is of course unusual and only occurs one other time – in the list of the princes recounted towards the very end of Sefer Bemidbar (34:23-24).  Now while the natural birth order of the two is Menashe and then Efraim, this was early on reversed by Yaakov in his parting blessing to Yosef (see Bereishit 48:17-20).  Henceforth, all references to the two mention Efraim first, until the second census. Suddenly, Menashe is placed first! 

 

            The answer, it seems, once again relates to context.  Much like the listing of the spies looked forward to the people's collective fate, and much like the order of the first tribal princes looked forward to the dividing of the tribes into their respective ensigns, this second census looks forward to the entry into the new land and to the allotment of its territory among the respective tribes.  By the time of the second census, the old generation that had experienced the Exodus had perished and the new generation that had followed God across the barren expanse wilderness expanse had taken their place.  But unlike their predecessors, the new generation looked towards the new land with anticipation and hope.  How they wanted to traverse the Yarden and begin the process of settling the new land!

 

            Of course, the deep-seated love of the land and the arduous desire to settle it were soon brought to the fore in that narrative by the entry of the daughters of Zelofchad.  Pleading their case, the brave women demanded an allotment of land as the only heirs to their deceased father's estate.  And God heard their request!  Now as it turns out, these five young women, whose story is recounted in Bemidbar 27:1-11 IMMEDIATELY after the census of the people, hailed from the tribe of Menashe, for Zelofchad their father was a son of Chefer, son of Gilad, son of Machir, son of Menashe.  In other words, the second census recounted in Bemidbar 26, looking forward to the entry into Canaan and to the settlement of the land, chooses to highlight the centrality of the land by making mention of Menashe first, because of the story of Zelofchad's daughters.  Let Menashe be listed first, the Torah seems to be saying, in the merit of the womenfolk of that tribe who cared so deeply about the land.  Their names, in fact, are even recounted in the census itself (Bemidbar 26:33), in an unmistakable foreshadowing of their special role.

 

INTIMATIONS OF BORDERS

 

            Finally, we come to the last list of Sefer Bemidbar, the tribal princes selected to assist in the disbursement of the land and enumerated in Bemidbar 34:19-28.  While we have already accounted for the omission of Levi, Reuven and Gad, the other ten tribes that are listed seem utterly out of order.  Yehuda is inexplicably followed by Shimon, Binyamin and Dan.  These are then succeeded by Menashe and Efraim and then by Zevulun, Yissachar, Asher and Naftali.  There does not seem to be a division that is predicated upon birth order, eponymous mother or any criterion that we have thus far seen.  But yet again, let the local context be our guide.  The section that incorporates this final list is all about settlement of the new land and thus shares a common theme with the census list that precedes it.  But more specifically, this final passage is part of larger discussion that pertains to the future BORDERS of that land.  In fact, the first half of Chapter 34 precisely delineates the limits of the land, to the south (34:3-4), to the west (34:5-6), to the north (34:7-9) and to the east (34:10-12).  It sanguinely concludes:

 

Moshe commanded the people saying: "this is the land that you shall possess according to lot, which God commanded to assign to the nine tribes and the one half-tribe."  For the tribe of Reuven in accordance with their clans as well as the tribe of Gad according to their clans, also the half tribe of Menashe according to their clans, all took their inheritance.  These two and one-half tribes took their inheritance on the eastern side of the Yarden near Yericho (Bemidbar 34:12-15).

 

In other words, the list of the ten tribal princes that will be responsible for distributing the land follows immediately on the heels of the discussion of that land's borders.  Introducing these ten is the mention of the two and one-half tribes that had already secured their borders east of the Yarden on the eve of the entry into the land.  How remarkably appropriate, then, that the list of the ten princes EXACTLY foreshadows the tribal boundaries later secured by their respective tribes, as recounted in the Book of Yehoshua, Chapters 14 through 19.  There it emerges that Yehuda secured the hilly southern lands while Shimon settled among their brethren's cities (Yehoshua 19:1).  Binyamin was immediately north of Yehuda (Yehoshua 18:11), while Dan was to their west in the foothills (Yehoshua 19:40-46).  Menashe and Efraim were to the north of Yehuda (Yehoshua 17), and the four remaining tribes of Zevulun, Yissachar, Asher and Naftali settled the northern lands towards the Lebanon mountains and beyond.  This means that the list of tribal princes preserved at the end of Sefer Bemidbar, in the context of a discussion pertaining to tribal boundaries, precisely presages the division of the land.  The southern stretches will be secured by the tribe of Yehuda, flanked by Shimon (south), Binyamin (north) and Dan (west), while the northern stretches will be settled by Menashe and Efraim, flanked to their north by the four remaining tribes!

 

            Let us summarize our conclusions.  We have noted that the tribes of Israel are listed at least nine times in the Torah and not one of the lists exactly corresponds to any other.  While it may be tempting to therefore conclude that the tribal sequences are arbitrary and of little consequence, we have discovered that there is in fact an underlying principle that explains ALL of the variations.  This fundamental principle states that while there is a basic scheme that underlines all of the lists and is predicated upon mother and birth order, there is at the same time a local and specific context for each list in turn, often incorporating an intimation or a foreshadowing, which necessitates its modification from what might be termed the "tribal template."  In other words, each list effectively preserves the complementary and reciprocal relationship between the general scheme and the specific context, providing us with a nuanced permutation that is anything but arbitrary.  The Torah is a text that is crafted with exquisite care and each phrase, each word, is deliberate and purposeful.  Let us not make the mistake of ascribing carelessness or capriciousness to its holy words!  "Uncover my eyes so that I might see the wonders of Your Torah!" (Tehillim 119:18).

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

For further study:  There are only three other lists of tribes preserved in the Torah – one at the end of Sefer Bereishit (Chapter 49), another at the command to convene the people in a covenantal ceremony at Shekhem (Devarim 27:11-14), and a final listing at the end of Sefer Devarim (Chapter 33).  The list at the end of Sefer Bereishit consists of Yaakov's parting blessing to his children, while the list at the conclusion of Sefer Devarim is composed of Moshe's final blessing to the tribes of Israel.  How are the tribes listed in each of these three remaining sections and what might be an explanation based upon our analysis above?