Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Flags of the Tribes

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress resolved that: “the flag of the 13 United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: That the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." In celebration of this resolution, June 14 was officially established as Flag Day (as of 1916).

The Tribes of Israel also had flags, but these were more like organizational guides. By Divine order, the Israelites encamped “each person by his flag, according to the insignia of his ancestor’s house, at a distance surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they encamp” (Numbers 2:2). According to the Midrash Rabbah Numbers 2:7, this meant that each tribe had a specific color and emblem:

Reuben - Red flag, with mandrake flowers
Simeon - Green flag, with buildings of the city of Shechem
Levi - Red, white and black flag, with the High Priest's breastplate
Judah - Sky blue flag, with a lion
Issachar - Bluish black flag, with a sun and moon
Zebulun - White flag, with a ship
Dan - Blue flag, with a snake
Naphtali - Deep wine colored flag, with a deer
Gad - Black and white flag, with a tent camp
Asher - Pearlescent colored flag, with an olive tree
Joseph - Black flag, with Egypt depicted upon it (Since this tribe was divided into Joseph’s two sons, their flags were similar. However, Ephraim’s flag had a bull, while Menasseh’s had a wild ox.)
Benjamin - Multicolored flag, with a wolf

*Some flags refer to historical occurrences (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Joseph) while others reflect Jacob’s blessings (Judah, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Benjamin).

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