Illustration: "Joseph Makes Himself Known to his Brethren"
By Gustave Dor'e


What I would like to do here is go through the twelve sons of Jacob and give a brief description of both the name of each son and the number associated with his birth based upon the marital status of that son's mother. Thus Leah is the first wife and her sons should be associated with the numbers 1 - 6. Rachel is the second wife and her sons should be associated with the numbers 7 and 8. Zilpah is the servant of the first wife, hence her sons should be associated with the numbers 9 and 10. Finally, Bilhah is the servant of the second wife and her sons should be associated with the numbers 11 and 12.

Rather than continuously referring back to previous articles, I will explain each name and number by repeating many of the definitions of symbols we have already studied.

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The first son of Leah is called: "Reuben" and his name simply means: "to see a son". The Hebrew word for first born sons and for first fruits of the field is the same and the holy day of "Shavout" celebrating giving the law to the Israelites is also called the Festival of the First Fruits.

The word: "son" is a metaphor for: "word". In the Old Testament this is not made so clear, but in the New Testament Jesus is clearly described as: "the word of God" as well as: "the son of God". Another, important point to consider is that Jacob describes Reuben as being his strongest. It is my opinion that when the Old Testament speaks of strength it is referring to intellectual strength, thus both the stories of Goliath and Samson are about religious scholars, not super men.

Therefore, based on all these examples, it is my belief that what we are being told is that the name: "Reuben" means: "to understand the word of God".

The second son of Leah is: "Simon" and his name means: "to hear". The story goes on to say, however, that the Lord heard that Leah was not loved. Actually all the children born to Leah are, in one way or another, the result of her not being loved and later all her sons will realize that Jacob loves Joseph more than them. Nonetheless, another aspect to be considered here is that the story about how Simon received his name is similar to the story of how Ishmael, the son of Abraham, received his name. In that story we are told that Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, was not loved by Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and she called out to God for help.

The important point about Simon, however, is that he was born second. Thus there is a dichotomy about him and there is the obvious connection to a two edged sword. In addition, when God punished the Children of Israel he said that anyone less than twenty years of age did not know the difference between good and evil, which, in my opinion negates the idea of original sin.

Based on these stories, Simon is a person who should be associated with listening to two sides of a story. Also it should be noted that, of all the tribes, only Simon was not blessed by Moses. The rabbinical scholar The Rashi suggests this was because Simon cruelly punished the people of Hamor and Shechem, but I don't agree. It is my opinion that the tribe of Simon was not blessed because a member of this tribe had sex with a Midianite woman. This, obviously, was a very significant offense because when Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the High Priest, ran through both these offenders with a single thrust of his spear, God immediately rewarded him and declared Phinehas to be a priest forever.

In the New Testament it should be noted that the name Simon is associated with sin. Thus, at a time when he was known only by the name Simon, Simon/Peter declared: "I am a sinful man." In addition there are the stories of Simon the Pharisee and Simon the Leper. Finally, the full name of Judas Iscariot is Judas Iscariot son of Simon.

The third son of Leah is: "Levy" and his name means: "bound to" or: "committed to". What I believe is important here is that it is forbidden to eat fruit from a tree that is less than three years old and that Joseph, Solomon and Jesus all began their official roles of service at the age of thirty.

Accordingly, it is my feeling that the number three should be associated with a complete, or fully developed, commitment to God and these qualities are mentioned when the tribe of Levy was selected for the functions surrounding the priesthood

The fourth son of Leah is: "Judah" and his name means: "to praise God". It is from this tribe that the name: "Jews" eventually evolved, although scholars point out in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as in the New Testament, other members of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel are clearly identified, so they never really were completely lost. For example: in the gospel of Matthew it speaks of a woman named Anna, from the tribe of Asher.

Thus Jews are people who lived in the land of Judah, not necessarily descendants from the tribe of Judah.

The number four is associated with cleansing since the flood lasted forty days and forty nights and the Children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years. In addition to this it is my opinion that the association with the name Kiryat Arba, which in English means the four cities, and the name Hebron, which in English means alliance, suggests that the number four has something to do with bringing two ideas about God together. Thus when Abraham buys the field of Machpaleh from the Hittites he pays four hundred shekels and when Esau invites his brother Jacob to come live with him he is accompanied by four hundred men. Also when the Amalikites attempt to steal the women and goods of David, after being defeated, it is written they escaped on four hundred camels. In my opinion, the Amalikites should be associated with proselytizing others to follow their beliefs. Accordingly we see in the book of Esther than Haman, a descendant of the Amalikites, became angry and obsessed when Mordichai refused to follow his religious decrees.

The story of the birth of Leah's fifth son: Issachar is one of the longest in the Torah and, possibly, one of the most important of the narratives. We are told that Leah's firstborn son has found some fruit in a wheat field. Since we have already discussed extensively the connection between the Torah being called the bread of life and the function of Joseph as the supervisor of wheat production, then there is no need here to explain that it is not just by chance that this narrative mentions the exact location where this fruit was found.

In addition to this we have also discussed the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the fact that fruit is a metaphor for knowledge. .

Basically, the story tells us that Rachel wanted to eat the fruit Reuben found and we assume this is because she was having difficulty in becoming pregnant. She made a deal with Leah in that she would allow Jacob to sleep with Leah in return for the fruit. Thus what we are seeing then is a similar deal to the one made between Jacob and Esau. In exchange for food, which is a metaphor for knowledge, Rachel surrenders her rights to the seeds of Jacob, just as Esau, in exchange for food, had surrendered his right to the seeds of Isaac.

As a result of this deal Leah becomes pregnant and when she names the boy: "Issachar" and we assume it is because she hired Jacob's services for the night with her son's fruit, which is indeed what she originally said to Jacob. Accordingly, the translation of the name: "Issachar" into English means: "man for hire".

Later, however, when we read the explanation that Leah gives, we are surprised to find she had been referring to something else. She said that she gave her maid servant to Jacob and now God is paying her back with this child. Giving of one's concubine to your husband is similar to what happened with Sarah and Hagar, but Sarah never commented on the matter in this fashion. In other words, Sarah never claimed that God allowed her to eventually become pregnant because she had permitted Abraham to sleep with her slave girl.

Nevertheless, the point of all these stories is that the number five should be associated with buying back. So we see later in the Torah that the first born sons are bought back from God for five shekels and we must always remember the connection between sons, fruit and laws. We also have the fiftieth year of redemption, called The Year of Jubilee, where a man has his land returned to him which he lost for failure to repay debts.

Therefore these stories indicate then that the number five has something to do with redemption. We could then draw the conclusion that the theme of the five books of Moses is about redemption since the Children of Israel are returned to their land. We have discussed that all wars in the Old Testament were wars of doctrine. When David selected five rocks from the stream to attack Goliath, this indicated the subject of the debate was redemption. Slinging the stone at Goliath's forehead represents discrediting the source of the Philistine's knowledge.

To conclude this discussion of the number five, I believe it is necessary to understand that all the references to first fruits, land, seeds, and sex should be associated with the concept of redemption. Thus, in both the Old and New Testaments, redemption has to do with having one's source of knowledge restored to them, and is not some act of divine forgiveness for past misbehavior. Accordingly, this would suggest that the establishment of the modern state of Israel has something to do with restoring the source of knowledge of the Children of Israel.

The sixth son of Leah is called: "Zebulon" and Leah compared him to: "a dowry", although this name includes all six sons and not just Zebulon himself. Her conclusion was that now Jacob would stay and live with her.

What we are inclined to do with this story then is to compare the six sons of Leah to the six days of the week and to the six steps that led up to the throne of Solomon. Thus the Sabbath is a wedding night and the six days of the week are the dowry we must pay in order to receive the seeds of the bridegroom on the Sabbath. In my opinion, this is reflected in the New Testament where there is a parable about bridesmaids having enough olive oil in their lamps when the bridegroom arrives. Thus, the implication is that men must indeed study and accumulated wisdom for six days, before they can attain access to the word of God on the Sabbath. Hence, Laban, the father of Leah and Rachel, tells Jacob that he must marry the older daughter before he marries the younger daughter.

Interestingly, the seventh child of Leah is a female and her name Dinah which means judgment or law. Although Dinah is the seventh child of Leah the first wife, because she is a girl, we must consider Joseph to be the seventh child of Jacob, in that he is the first son of the second wife.

Jacob, in his blessing, describes Joseph as the one set apart from his brothers and this is very similar to the description for the Sabbath which is the day set apart from the other days.

The crucial element in the story of Joseph is that he has the power to interpret the messages of God and, eventually, he will be placed in charge of all of Pharaoh's wheat fields. For centuries rabbis have made a connection between bread and the books of the law. Even in modern times there is a connection between fields and schools, because in any university one can hear the question: "What is your field of study?" Thus Joseph's work with wheat in Egypt is a metaphor for establishing a network of religious schools to spread the ideas that God revealed to Pharaoh and which had been interpreted by Joseph.

Finally, as the seventh son, we can make a connection with Joseph and the seventh step of the throne of Solomon. Thus Solomon's chair is the place where he sits and rests and it is located on the seventh step. Also, the Hebrew word for Sabbath is the past simple form of the verb to sit. Accordingly, it is from this seventh level that Solomon speaks to the people and relays to them the knowledge he has received since becoming the anointed messiah of God. Thus, we see that the number seven and the Sabbath should be associated with communications from God.

The name: "Joseph" means: "to add", thus Benjamin is the eighth son of Jacob and as such he represents: "the added knowledge" requested by his mother Rachel. The two most famous members of the tribe of Benjamin are King Saul and Paul of Tarsus. King Saul did not carry out the commands of God and anyone who is familiar with the books of the law can clearly see that Paul of Tarsus added his own interpretations to the word of God. In fact, in regards to sexual behavior, Paul of Tarsus comes right out and says God did not tell him to restrict the sexual activities of men. He said he did it anyway because he felt that "he too" had the spirit of God within him. Unfortunately, this logic is very similar to the logic given by Miriam: the sister of Moses, when she challenged his authority and claimed "she too" spoke for God. As a result God changed her into a leper and, interestingly, in his writings Paul of Tarsus also complained of his own bad skin.

The name: "Benjamin" actually means: "the son of the right", but originally Rachel called her son: "Ben Aloni" which means: "the son of my sorrow". This name, however, can also mean son of my punishment or son of my impoverishment. What needs to be remembered here is that Jacob cursed anyone who stole something from Laban and Rachel, without the knowledge of Jacob, had stolen her father's household Gods. Thus one might conclude that Benjamin was born as a result of the cursed placed on Rachel by Jacob.

The point of all this is that the additional knowledge, which Rachel requested when Joseph was born, comes at the expense of the death of the messenger. Thus the number eight represents an additional teaching gained by the death of one's previous beliefs. So it should be noted that Jacob was eighty years old when he returned from working with Laban as a shepherd and Moses was eighty years old when he returned from working with Jethro as a shepherd. It should also be recalled that Jethro lived in Sinai and this name means scholarship.

The ninth son of Jacob is: "Gad" and Leah said that he should be associated with: "good fortune". In other articles we discussed the connection between wealth and knowledge and, even in modern times, we still speak of people having a wealth of knowledge . Jacob spoke to Rachel about the fruit in her womb and the story of the Tree of Knowledge suggests that fruit is indeed a metaphor for knowledge. As the ninth son Gad must be associated with pregnancy so his name suggests the good fortune of being supplied with knowledge from God in the form of fruit in the womb. Earlier we mentioned that Sarah was eighty nine years old when she became pregnant with Isaac and appeared to be so sexually attractive to the King of Gerar. Since Isaac is the second son of Abraham we could say that from the number eighty he represents additional knowledge. From the number nine, as just discussed, Isaac represents the good fortune of receiving knowledge from God.

The tenth son is named: "Asher" and Leah associates this name with: "blessings". Since a curse in the Old Testament is connected to difficultly in producing fruit, a blessing must imply something that makes producing fruit easier. We have shown the connection between food and knowledge, thus in the blessing of Jacob which he received from his father Isaac, he is provided with bread, wine and oil as well as the slave labor of his brother. All this items are symbols related to increasing one's understanding of the word of God.

Naturally, we also have the Ten Commandments and the story of the ten good men of Sodom. My conclusion from all these references is that in order for trees of knowledge to develop they need the rain of the words of Moses.

The number ten represents a blessing which consists of ten minimum rules which will produce spiritual happiness; hence I do not believe the Old Testament supports the idea of a single golden rule. The minimum amount of rules is ten, but, as mentioned, the name Sinai means scholarship so Moses brought down the Ten Commandments from a high level of scholarship, represented by Mount Sinai, to a lower level of understanding the Children of Israel could understand. By way of contrast, Jesus is usually described as bringing people up to the tops of mountains which represent higher levels of understanding. Regrettably, these people either could not stay awake or misunderstood his words.

The number ten, however, is also associated with bad things like the ten dishonest spies and the ten plagues. Accordingly, it is my opinion then that the number ten should be associated with the knowledge of good and evil. Thus we must ask: Who knows best to discern the difference between good and evil? The answer, of course, is a judge and a student of the law; which brings us to number eleven.

The eleventh son of Jacob is: "Dan", whose name, like his sister Dinah, also means: "the law" or: "a judge". What Rachel says is that God has judged her and heard her voice. Later Jacob compares Dan to a snake which suggests to me that a snake is not a symbol for a demonic being. In fact, Jesus compared himself to the snake Moses placed on the pole to cure the Children of Israel and he told his disciples they must be as cunning as snakes. Snakes then are authorities of religious law. Thus the number eleven is made up of ten plus one and would seem to mean that scholarship of the law, represented by the number ten will bring understanding of God's word, represented by the number one.

The twelfth son of Jacob is: "Naphtali" and his name means: "a struggle based on jealousy". This name would then imply ten plus two should be interpreted to mean that scholarship of the law will bring discord if, as a result of jealousy, we listen to two sources of teaching. It must be remembered that Leah was extremely jealous that Jacob loved her sister more than her and later her sons would also hate the son of Rachel. Thus the twelve sons of Jacob were always arguing with each other, just as in the New Testament, the twelve disciples of Jesus also suffered from jealousy and internal squabbles.

When the prophet Elijah came upon Elisha he was plowing a field with twelve oxen. A field represents a religious school since it is a place where the major ingredient for the bread of life is produced. From the riddle of Samson in the book of Judges we are told that heifers supply answers to questions, thus Elisha had to yoke together conflicting religious scholars, represented by the twelve oxen, and try to manage a religious school according to one doctrine, symbolized by a single yoke.
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