Leaders of the tribes of Israel

The Torah gives several lists of leaders of the tribes of Israel.

First list

The first, and main, list appears in Numbers 1:1-19. It lists the leaders who supervised the first census of the Israelites, and who led them during their travels in the wilderness. Numbers 1 gives the list of those leaders who supervised the census:

Reuben Elizur the son of Shedeur
Simeon Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai
Judah Nahshon the son of Amminadab
Issachar Nethanel the son of Zuar
Zebulun Eliab the son of Helon
Joseph Ephraim Elishama the son of Ammihud
Manasseh Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur
Benjamin Abidan the son of Gideoni
Dan Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai
Asher Pagiel the son of Ochran
Gad Eliasaph the son of Deuel
Naphtali Ahira the son of Enan

In the following chapters, these same leaders are recorded as being heads of their tribes during the encampments of the tribes in the wilderness. (Numbers 2, 10:11-28) These leaders also brought donations from their respective tribes on the occasion of the completion of the Tabernacle. (Numbers 7) They were summoned together to meet with Moses by the sounding of one silver trumpet (sounding both silver trumpets being the signal for the whole Israelite community to move forward on their Exodus journey).[1]

The spies

A second list is given in Numbers 13:1-16: these are the men who were sent by Moses to spy out the Land of Canaan. They are also described by the text as leaders of their tribesmen (Num. 13:2):

Reuben Shammua the son of Zaccur
Simeon Shaphat the son of Hori
Judah Caleb the son of Jephunneh
Issachar Igal the son of Joseph
Benjamin Palti the son of Raphu
Zebulun Gaddiel the son of Sodi
Joseph Manasseh Gaddi the son of Susi
Ephraim Hoshea the son of Nun
Dan Ammiel the son of Gemalli
Asher Sethur the son of Michael
Naphtali Nahbi the son of Vophsi
Gad Geuel the son of Machi

Third list

Numbers 34:16-29 gives the list of the leaders of the tribes who took possession of the Land of Canaan. This list omits Reuben and Gad, who, at their request, only received inheritance on the east bank of the Jordan, and not in the Land of Canaan.

The list begins with Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, who led the entire nation. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh appear on this list as well as the list of the spies, the other ten spies having died in punishment for slandering the Holy Land.

Judah Caleb the son of Jephunneh
Simeon Shemuel the son of Ammihud
Benjamin Elidad the son of Chislon
Dan Bukki the son of Jogli
Joseph Manasseh Hanniel the son of Ephod
Ephraim Kemuel the son of Shiphtan
Zebulun Elizaphan the son of Parnach
Issachar Paltiel the son of Azzan
Asher Ahihud the son of Shelomi
Naphtali Pedahel the son of Ammihud


  1. Numbers 10:4
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