The Book of Exodus (and the Gospel of Matthew) both start with a genealogy. We tend to quickly read over a list of names and deem it “boring.” But all of God’s Word was written with purpose. First, these are the names of the tribes of the men who fathered the tribes of Israel.
Starting with Jacob, which means “heel holder” or “supplanter”– to supersede (another) especially by force or treachery — and God changed his name to Israel, which means “God prevails.”
Exodus Chapter 1
1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
3 Issachar, Zebulon, and Benjamin,
4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
Each name has an important meaning:
Reuben, the son of God’s gracious regard; behold a son
Simeon, God hears and answers prayer
Levi, the bond and joining between wife and husband
Judah, God is praised
Issachar, the son given as a reward
Zebulon, he who will make the husband and wife dwell together, habitation
Benjamin, son of my strength, literally son of my right hand
Dan, a judge ( to judge as an umpire)
Naphtali, one wrestled for, struggle
Gad, to overcome
Asher, the happy one, to be blessed.
Although we tend to skip over names that are hard to pronounce, it’s worth getting out Mr. Strong’s concordance and looking up the meaning of the names. Instead of rushing over the names, it’s worth slowing down and thinking about them. The names give a larger picture of God’s attributes and His intertwining with mankind.