within the area of freedom decreed by God, an area that was by no means cramped and that allowed for the greatest enjoyment of human life. Therefore, to violate the boundaries of the prohibited area by eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” would be an invasion of or a revolt against God’s domain and authority.—See SOVEREIGNTY.
Trees were also used to symbolize individuals, rulers and kingdoms, as in the prophecy likening the fall of Pharaoh and his crowd to Assyria’s fall in Ezekiel chapter 31, and in Daniel’s prophecy regarding the mighty tree representing dominion “in the kingdom of mankind.” (Dan. 4:10-26) The righteous man is likened to a tree planted by streams of water (Ps. 1:3), whose foliage is luxuriant and whose fruit continues to grow even in drought.—Jer. 17:8.
The promise that the days of God’s restored people will be like those of a tree (Isa. 65:22) is made more meaningful by the fact that some trees of Palestine live for centuries, even up to a thousand years or more. In Ezekiel’s vision a stream flowing from the visionary temple was lined with fruitful trees of healing foliage, and a similar vision is presented in the book of Revelation. (Ezek. 47:7, 12; Rev. 22:2, 14) The expression “tree of life” is used with regard to true wisdom, to the fruitage of the righteous, to the realization of a thing desired, to calmness of the tongue, and is also associated with the crown of life. (Prov. 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4; Rev. 2:7, 10) Trees are mentioned in association with the fruitful, peaceful and joyful conditions resulting from Jehovah’s kingship and the restoration of his people.—1 Chron. 16:33; Ps. 96:12; 148:9; Isa. 55:12; Ezek. 34:27; 36:30.
Jesus used trees in some of his illustrations stressing the need for fruitfulness in true righteousness, as John the Baptist had done before him. (Matt. 3:10; 7:15-20) Since fruit trees were taxed in Palestine in that time, an unproductive tree (as good as dead) was an undesirable burden to the owner and, hence, a tree to be chopped down and destroyed. (Luke 13:6-9) At Jude 12 immoral persons who infiltrate the Christian congregation are likened to fruitless trees in autumn time that have died twice. Their being described as ‘twice dead’ may be an emphatic way of expressing that they are completely dead. Or, it could signify that they are dead from two viewpoints. They are (1) barren or fruitless and (2) are literally dead, possessing no vitality.
The Hebrew word for tree is also used with regard to the stake or post on which a body was hung. (Gen. 40:19; Deut. 21:22, 23; Josh. 8:29; Esther 2:23) In applying Deuteronomy 21:23, the apostle Paul used the Greek word xyʹlon.—Gal. 3:13; see TORTURE STAKE; individual trees by name.
See LEGAL CASE.
A group of people, comprising a number of families or clans, who are united by race or custom under the same leaders.
The two Hebrew words often rendered “tribe” (mat·theʹ and sheʹvet) both mean rod or staff. (Ex. 7:12; Prov. 13:24) Apparently these words came to signify “tribe” in the sense of a group of persons led by a chief or chieftains carrying a scepter or staff. (Compare Numbers 17:2-6.) In most cases where the context shows that either word has the thought of “tribe,” it is used in regard to one of the tribes of Israel, such as the “tribe [mat·theʹ] of Gad” or the “tribe [sheʹvet] of the Levites.” (Josh. 13:24, 33) However, the ‘tribe that God redeemed as his inheritance,’ mentioned at Psalm 74:2, evidently refers to the entire nation of Israel, speaking of it as a “tribe” or people distinct from other nations and peoples. And the term “tribe” at Numbers 4:18 seems to be used in a more restrictive sense, as applied to the Kohathites who were a subdivision of the tribe of Levi. The Egyptian “tribes” of Isaiah 19:13 must apply to certain categories of people, whether according to region, caste or something else.
The Greek term phy·leʹ signifies “a company of people united by kinship or habitation, a clan, tribe.” The word is often used in the Christian Greek Scriptures in regard to the tribes of the nation of Israel. (Acts 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5; Heb. 7:13, 14; Rev. 5:5) In expressions like “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” “tribe” seems to mean a group of people related by common descent. (Rev. 5:9) Such expressions, then, are exhaustive, referring to all people, whether viewed according to tribes of interrelated individuals, or as being part of a language group, a large mass or segment of mankind or a political division. (Rev. 7:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6) Also, phy·leʹ appears in the expression “all the tribes of the earth” at Revelation 1:7, which evidently means all people on earth, for the verse also says “every eye will see him.”—Compare Matthew 24:30.
TRIBES OF ISRAEL
The tribal arrangement in Israel was based on descent from the twelve sons of Jacob. (Gen. 29:32–30:24; 35:16-18) These “twelve family heads [Gr., doʹde·ka pa·tri·arʹkhas]” produced the “twelve tribes of Israel.” (Gen. 49:1-28; Acts 7:8) However, Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh the older and Ephraim the younger, and said: “Ephraim and Manasseh will become mine like [his actual sons] Reuben and Simeon.” (Gen. 48:5, 13-20) When the various tribes received their land inheritance in the Promised Land (Josh. chaps. 13-19), there was no “tribe of Joseph.” Instead, “the sons of Joseph,” Manasseh and Ephraim, were counted as distinct tribes in Israel. As Jehovah had arranged, though, this did not increase the tribes of Israel receiving an inheritance to thirteen, because the Levites got no land inheritance. Jehovah had chosen the “tribe of Levi” (Num. 1:49) in place of the firstborn of the other tribes and they became the priestly tribe. (Ex. 13:1, 2; Num. 3:6-13, 41; Deut. 10:8, 9; 18:1; see LEVITES.) Consequently, there were twelve non-Levite tribes in Israel.—Josh. 3:12, 13; Judg. 19:29; 1 Ki. 11:30-32; Acts 26:7.
When Moses blessed the tribes (Deut. 33:6-24), Simeon was not mentioned by name, perhaps because the tribe was greatly reduced in size and its land portion was to be enclosed in the territory of Judah. In Ezekiel’s vision of the holy contribution and the twelve tribes, the tribes listed are the same as those who received a land inheritance as given in the book of Joshua. (Ezek. 48:1-8, 23-28) The tribe of Levi was located within the “holy contribution” in Ezekiel’s vision.—Ezek. 48:9-14, 22.
Much of the organization of the Israelites revolved around the tribal structure. Both their order of marching and encampment in the wilderness were according to tribes. (Num. 2:1-31; 10:5, 6, 13-28) The land inheritance was apportioned on the basis of tribes, and special laws were given so that the land would not circulate from tribe to tribe.—Num. 36:7-9; Josh. 19:51.
The dividing up of the nation according to family heads was further carried out within each tribe. Though the tribe was the basic and most important division of the nation, each tribe was subdivided into large “families” (with “family” used in a broad sense) based on descent from paternal heads. (Num. 3:20, 24; 34:14) Within each “family” there were many individual households. This arrangement patterned after the tribal structure is well illustrated in Joshua 7:16-18 and 1 Samuel 9:21; 10:20, 21.
TRIBES OF SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
Revelation 7:4-8 divides the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel into twelve ‘tribes’ of twelve thousand