"At Stonehenge in England and Carnac in France, in Egypt and Yucatan, across the whole face of the earth are found mysterious ruins of ancient monuments, monuments with astronomical significance. These relics of other times are as accessible as the American Midwest and as remote as the jungles of Guatemala. Some of them were built according to celestial alignments; others were actually precision astronomical observatories ... Careful observation of the celestial rhythms was compellingly important to early peoples, and their expertise, in some respects, was not equaled in Europe until three thousand years later."
- Dr. Edwin Krupp, astronomer and director at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles
Were the 12 Tribes of Israel Based on the Zodiac?
This is a subject about which there is much disinformation, including attempts to claim that the zodiac postdated the founding of the Israelite nation with its 12 tribes and that, hence, the numbering of the tribes could not be based on the 12 zodiacal signs, as has been suggested by many people since ancient times.
Testimony of Josephus and Philo
The claim that the 12 tribes of Israel were identified with the 12 signs of the zodiac is spelled out clearly by the ancient Jewish writers Philo and Josephus, during the first century. During the first century BCE, Diodorus Siculus identified the 12 tribes with the 12 months.
As I relate in Christ in Egypt (261):
See Exodus 39:9-14: "...they made the breastplate... And they set in it four rows of stones... And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve...according to the twelve tribes."
As Josephus says (Antiquities, 3.8 ): "And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning." (Josephus, 75.)
Earlier than Josephus, Philo ("On the Life of Moses," 12) had made the same comments regarding Moses: "Then the twelve stones on the breast, which are not like one another in colour, and which are divided into four rows of three stones in each, what else can they be emblems of, except of the circle of the zodiac?" (Philo, 99.)
As we can see, by the first century it was well known that the theme of "the 12" was astrological in nature.
Age of the Zodiac
The zodiac is mentioned in the Bible at Job 38:32, where the author refers to the "Mazzaroth." The Book of Job is traditionally placed in an early setting, as the RSV says, from the patriarchal period, preceding the founding of Israel. Job is believed to have been an adult when Moses was allegedly born, which would mean that Job's adventures and story, with its discussion of the Mazzaroth/12 signs, preceded Moses and the gathering together of 12 tribes. The Twelve in the Bible and Ancient Mythology