The 12 Sons of Jacob vs. The 12 Tribes of Israel

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
This is an easy way to teach the 12 sons of Jacob and how they became the 12 tribes of Israel.
 Students always understand the changes after this lesson.
Sorry, these are older photos of the visuals I created and not good camera quality. 
I made today's visual using a tri-fold science foam board and clipart from Logos Bible Clips. I found the map free online. I printed everything on cardstock and laminated everything. There are links are at the end of this lesson to download everything but the map.
NOTE: Joseph, Levi, & both of Joseph's sons AND their scroll name tags ...ALSO, the 4 title pieces are attached with Velcro to the board. All the rest are attached with sticky dots. (Found in the scrapbook isle.) The extra pieces with the Velcro are saved in a 6x9 brown clasp envelope attached to the back of the board during storage.
What you see in blue is what I did using the visual while telling the Bible lesson. I either pointed to it or added/subtracted from the visual.
Lesson found in Genesis 30 and 32: (After review...) Today we are going to start with Abraham and then we are going to jump to Jacob and the 12 Tribes of Israel.
When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him. Even though Abraham didn’t have sons, God told him to “Look toward the heaven and count the stars, if you can and that is how many descendants you will have.” (15:5-6) (Explain descendants) He believed what God told him. He said that Abraham would be 'a father of many nations'. Nations and kings would come from his descendants. And, as God promised, Abraham and Sarah had a son named Isaac.
Isaac married Rebekah and they had twins named Jacob and Esau. We are going to spend most of our time talking about Jacob and his family today because through Abraham to Jacob, Jesus was born.
Jacob had 12 sons. Looking at our board, we have Jacob and his 12 sons, from the oldest (Reuben) to the youngest (Benjamin).
Let's talk about Joseph. Jacob liked his 11th son Joseph the most, and he gave him a coat of many colors. You all know about Joseph. His brothers were so jealous that they put him in a pit and when some traders came by, they sold Joseph for 20 shekels of silver.
Joseph ended up in Egypt and did what God wanted him to, and he was second in charge after Pharaoh. His brothers went to Egypt and after a time, Joseph told them who he was, and Joseph was able to see his father Jacob again. Joseph had 2 sons named Ephraim & Manasseh. (Hold up the 2 sons)
Let's look at the board again. The title is The 12 Sons of Jacob. That's easy to understand. [Genesis 32:22-31] One night, Jacob wrestled with a Man. When it was close to morning, the Man told him that Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel." Jacob said he had seen God face to face. Now, we are going to change Jacob's name to Israel.
Eventually, the Promised land was divided up. Moses and Joshua, doing exactly what God wanted, were the ones that made the final decisions on who received what land.
Levi was considered the priesthood and took care of all the religious duties. He took care of the tabernacle and everything inside of it.  So, he was not given part of the land. So, we will take him off the board.
Joseph was considered a patriarch and that was considered more of an honor, so he was not given part of the land. A patriarch is a man who is the leader of a family, clan, or tribe. We will take him of the board also.
Now we have 2 empty places! Also, since each person was given a section of land, and they had their whole groups of families living with them, and they had huge families back then, as a group they were each called a tribe. So, we will take down 12 Sons, since we know that each of the 12 sons didn't get a part of the land, and we will change it to The 12 Tribes of Israel.
We are not finished yet, though, we know there were 12 Tribes. Since Joseph was considered a patriarch now, he was not given a portion of the land, the portions were given to his sons. So, we will add Joseph's 2 sons Ephraim and Manasseh to the board to complete the 12 men.
That is how the  12 Sons of Jacob became the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Here are the 15 men (12 sons, Joseph's 2 sons, and Jacob)
Bible Verse:  Genesis 32:28 
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission.

Visuals include when Jacob leaves home and has his family in Genesis 28-30.
All are not shown.

Click here to download the pictures to color.
(These are the same as the visuals but are black & white.)
Visuals include Jacob leaving Laban's with his family, meeting Esau again and his name change.

This post has more charts and a file folder printable for Jacob's family.
Click here to see the 12 Tribes Game.
(This tent stays up in my class permanently and I switch the banners. I teach a class for 1 year, and mostly teach Acts. I start with a very condensed life of Jesus, lead into Acts and Paul, then finish with letters from Paul, and having a couple of lessons about the old law & the new law.)


  1. Do you have any clip art for the mothers? I'd love to put together a posterboard with more of a family tree style.

    1. Please allow a week or so for me to put it together, I have several bulletin boards I need to finish first. Also, I will be starting the Old Testament over the summer, so I will add to this lesson, probably in the fall.

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  3. Thank you sooo much.Great work.God bless u abundantly.

  4. Love this, too. I am finding many of your posts would be great to link to Look What We Did. Thanks for sharing.

  5. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, this is a GOD sent was ask last minute to talk about the twelve tribes and came across your web. copy and using in church this week. great work.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting! Glad you can use the printables!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing all your great work.

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate the nice comment!

  8. Replies
    1. Thank you! I appreciate the nice comment and thanks for stopping by!

  9. What a mission you are doing for other teachers through this page. So helpful to me for VBS.

    1. So glad you could use it! I appreciate the comment! Thanks for stopping by.

  10. This was WONDERFUL! You took a rather complicated genealogy and made it SO easy for the kids to see, which helps them understand it. Thanks so much for your work.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the kids always understand it all after this lesson! It is a tough one, but one of those that helps the rest of the Old Testament make sense if you understand and know this. Thanks for the comment!

  11. Thank You! Nice visuals to aide me in sharing with all ages of our Sunday school ministry. God Bless!

  12. why is everyone white in the 12 tribes of israel? what are you teaching your kids?

    1. As I have stated several places, these are the only resources that are available.

  13. Debbie, I have a lesson coming up on Caleb choosing the mountain land. Do you have a lesson on that? I've stalked your pinterest boards and I've googled, but I am haven't found anything except a "mountain" craft about Caleb. I know you're busy, so I appreciate any feedback. Thanks so much for all of the excellent work you do. Leah Faughn

  14. This lesson is absolutely amazing. Most Bible subjects like this are skipped over. This is the first time in my life that I have understood going from the 12 sons to the 12 tribes! Thank you so much. I use all of your printables for my S.S. class and it makes things so much more engaging and exciting.
    The children have had so much fun with the 12 sons and matching up with the mothers. Thank you!!!


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I appreciate it! They will be added as soon as they are approved.