Tribal Characteristics in a Nutshell

Joseph was the brother of Benjamin and the two were to be associated with each other even though in the end most of Benjamin joined with Judah and today his descendants are to be found mainly amongst the Jews. The symbol of Joseph was a sheaf of wheat. Joseph actually comprised two tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. The banner of Joseph was black. It depicted a RAEM or unicorn for Manasseh and a bull for Ephraim. The precious stone in the Breastplate of the High Priest representing Joseph was a Shoham. This has been identified as an Onyx though another opinion says it was an emerald. In addition the High Priest wore a shoham stone encased in gold(?) on each shoulder attached to the straps that held the breastplate in place. Each shoham stone borne on the shoulders had the names of the Tribes written on it: Six on each stone.

Picture identifies Shoham stone as the emerald which is according to another opinion

Note the shoham stones on each shoulder.

For more see below.


Discussion Group
Contents by Subject Research
Site Map
Contents in Alphabetical Order
This Site



Joseph was the provider. Joseph was secretive, sensitive, a dreamer yet capable of planning and carrying out his plans. Joseph had self-restraint. Joseph could be boastful, and vengeful, and have a taste for the ironic. He is dramatic, intense, bides his time. The qualities of Joseph are also those of all Israel especially from the Ten Tribes. Joseph can encompass everyone, spread himself around yet if neccessary play it alone. Joseph is a leader and considers it both his right to lead and something he has to work for. He has empathy. He looks into the heart. He is "large" meaning both understanding and generous. Joseph can be sensuous but is capable of great self-denial and of cleaving to a cause long after most others would have given up. Joseph is thorough. He sometimes does things "by the book" when latitude and enterprise would be preferable. Joseph, like all the other tribes, has both positive and negative qualities. Joseph is succesful and fruitful and brings a blessing to others. He is not mean in his attitude nor does he resent the good fortune of others and in return his own success is not resented as much as it otherwise could be. Joseph is jealous of Judah whether because of the intellectual success of Judah or of how Judah manages to keep and understand the Law or for some other reason. The jealousy remains. The leaders of Joseph are known as "merciful kings", bestowing the benefits of civilization and recognizing the virtues of social justice.
Joseph was divided into Ephraim and Manasseh. Each had characteristics of their own yet in many ways overlapped, complemented, and gave expression to the other. The qualities of the one in some instances interchange with each other.

Ms Joseph
The daughters of Zelphehad asserted themselves and asked for their rights. The Almighty justified them. They received what was theirs naturally without upsetting the masculine equilibrium.
Amos (ch.4) refers to the women of Manasseh and Ephraim in Samaria as the "Cows of Bashan" who make irrational demands of their husbands. Their menfolk are then so harassed by the women that that they go out and oppress the poor and vulnerable in order to satisfy the outlandish demands of their ladies. The women of Joseph have a tendency to be assertive. This can be either good or bad depending on the circumstances but apparently it is the reality. They also have the quality of understanding and acting as companions, as partners along the road of life. The menfolk of Joseph expect such a quality.

Ephraim has an infantile quality. He is both a "spoiled brat" and "a sweet child". He evokes love in others but does not always requite it. He is known for having a quality of treachery about him. He can give the impression of being naive and innocent but he often succeeds where others would not. He can be cruel, jealous, and vindictive. He is however definitely a leader though his followers may not always be pleased to follow after him. He can be just, wise, and competent.
His symbol is a bull and he has bull-like aspects about him. He paws the ground with his hoof before his charge and often adversaries neglect to take him seriously until it is too late.
Ephraim believes in aristocracy even when he mocks it. In his eyes the aristocrat has to prove himself and has a duty to fulfil and so does whoever is below him.

Manasseh is materialistic. Manasseh believes in size, in the massive over-dose. Manasseh is an egalitarian, prepared to listen to everybody, take note of everything. In the eyes of Manasseh everybody should be accountable for what they do and he is prepared if necessary to take them to account. Manasseh emphasizes the essence more than the external appearance though that too is important. Ephraim and Manasseh both have aspects of Joseph but Ephraim is somewhat closer to Joseph whereas Manasseh takes after their grandfather Jacob. Just like Jacob was on a kind of pilgrimage all his life so too is Manasseh. Like Jacob, Manasseh may seem gullible and vulnerable but in the end he is the one who will go "crying all the way to the bank". Like Jacob Manasseh is capable of taking under his wing all the other Tribes and acting as a kind of father figure. Ephraim may be irritated by this. Between Ephraim and Manasseh their exists both a fraternal understanding along with the tension of rival siblings. Ephraim and Manasseh are liable to forget their differences and team together against Judah who in his turn may vex them both. Like Jacob, Manasseh is close to expressing himself as "Israel" and some sources indicate he will be the first of the Ten Tribes to do so.

The Banner of Joseph

Created by Natatie Palik
Avalaiable from Mona Hyde


List of Tribes


For more details on the Tribes see under the heading:
Tribes and Israelite Tribal Identifications